We cannot celebrate this time… so let’s enjoy the celebrations of yesteryear

What great celebrations there were in Derbyshire 75 years ago on   May 8, 1945.  It wasn’t the end of World War II – it was “Victory” in Europe” only – but at least the end was in sight, as Godfrey Holmes recalls.

Celebrating V.E. Day in 1945 at Markham Sports’ Ground, Chesterfield.

A GREAT celebration was planned in the Chesterfield area on this year’s  ‘replaced’  Bank Holiday – May 8 instead of May Day – until the arrival of coronavirus.  No pageant, no parade, no tea dance in Chesterfield Town Hall.

However, 2020’s damp squib doesn’t deter us from re-imagining the celebrations of 1945; also 1970, the 25th anniversary of V.E. Day;  and 1995, the 50th anniversary. Nor should we ever ignore the subdued victory celebrations of 1918.

Derby, due to its sheer size, was best prepared for 1945’s V.E. festivities; but every other town or village in the county seems to have put on a spread. Those were not affluent times. Food rationing was still very much in force and queues were long, not least to get to the seaside. But it was felt nine-year olds, who had only ever known strife; and 10 to 15-year-olds, whose education and upbringing had been so clouded by warfare; deserved some merriment. 

As for the exact locations for celebration in 1945: Chesterfield’s Queen’s Park, the town’s Market Place – also Hasland, Clay Cross, Staveley and Belper’s fine recreation grounds –  came out top of the list.

Soldiers gathering in Chesterfield Market Place on VE Day in 1945.

As for suitable clothing, military uniforms spoke for themselves. For those on the Home Front, “Ruth” in the “Women’s Corner” of a Chesterfield news-sheet had this to say: “If you do have to wear some 1939 glad-rags, be glad you have them; so call them 1945-issue. 100s of people will be doing the same; you will have new coupons to spend this summer: so dress [this May & June] in old-fashioned Austerity Style!”

So, while we must postpone jollification this year, let us recall the thousands of ill-fed, stressed-out Derbyshire folk who ventured outdoors on that V.E. day, May 8, 1945, to make the most of at the long-awaited cessation of hostilities.