Veterans revive memories of our greatest victory
PUBLISHED: 16:28 13 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:52 12 August 2010
DOZENS of World War II veterans and home front workers celebrated VE Day at a special party. Residents at Nettlestead care home in Sundridge Avenue, Bromley, enjoyed a wartime-themed shindig to mark 64 years since Victory in Europe, when Nazi Germany su
DOZENS of World War II veterans and home front workers celebrated VE Day at a special party.
Residents at Nettlestead care home in Sundridge Avenue, Bromley, enjoyed a wartime-themed shindig to mark 64 years since Victory in Europe, when Nazi Germany surrendered to Britain and the allies.
Staff dressed up in wartime clothes while guests listened to the music of the era, played 1940s parlour games and relived their memories.
Jim Williams, 89, and his
wife Irene, 84, recalled how
their lives were affected during the war effort.
Mr Williams worked as a first aid officer and an air raid protection warden in the west end of London in Baker Street and Marylebone.
He witnessed a bomb being dropped on St John's Church which blew out nearly every window in St John's Wood High Street.
He said: "We had a lot of German eggs coming down near our house but you didn't get a chance to be scared. A five minute walk away from our house there was a bomb. We were lucky but a family of five were killed. We didn't really know them but we knew of them. We lived near the railway bridge at Kentish Town where there was a lot of activity as the trains came out of Euston."
Mr Williams added: "On VE Day there were big celebrations and street parties. People were happy. There were a lot of people everywhere but I was still attached to the Civil Defence where everybody just carried on as normal.
"We were very pleased because we both lived in central London and had had a few near misses."
Mrs Williams worked numerous jobs throughout the war, mainly in factories.
One of them involved cutting the linen for military coffins while another was making false teeth.
She said: "You had to be ready at all times. You had a timetable to keep to - if you were late you would get in trouble. Your life was put on hold and that was it.
"I did the cutting and cloth work for coffins. I had a lot of different jobs. The last job I had was soldering and wiring which hurt my hands. That's why they still hurt now and I've had two operations on them.
"I had to pack up my job on the Friday and start a new one on the Monday. We would go down to the Labour Exchange and they would tell you what job to do next. We had no choice. It was just a job - there was no hanging about, not on this watch.
"My brother Burt Burgess was killed in a Prisoner of War camp in Burma. We had to wait until the end of the war to find out. He was captured and spent a year there. He was only 32. But that's how life was, you had to just get on with it."
Micky Ball, 95, who drove bomb lorries for the Royal Airforce in Chedburgh, Suffolk, recalled: "I wasn't worried about driving the bombs around. But once there was an attack at the back of the airdrome. A bomber crashed there. It affected the whole area because it blocked the roads. We had to evacuate the huts so we went down the cookhouse and got some breakfast.
"I remember everyone celebrating on VE Day. But it was quite sad after the War ended. It felt a bit empty. We had good times but we also had bad times."
Her daughter Sue May, 58, was also at the party. She said: "I think mum enjoyed herself during the war with all the antics they got up to. She was young then. She would go for a drink with the pilots every now and again."
The party continued into the evening with wine and a buffet in the dining room where there was a display of residents' wartime photographs.
Comedians from the Beckenham Players amateur dramatics society made jokes about modern life, road rage, Nintendos and footballers' wages, while paying tribute to the hardiness of the residents' generation.
Singing duo The Swingtime Sweethearts provided musical entertainment.
Manager of Nettlestead, Kim Thomas, hailed the VE Day celebrations as a success and said she hoped they would mark the occasion each year from now on.
She said: "This day is important to them. Some of them still talk about the war. If you get into a conversation with them they will tell you a lot of interesting things. "This is the first time we have had a VE Day party and they all enjoyed themselves, so we'd like to do it every year.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Bromley Times. Click the link in the orange box below for details.