Monday May 7th
A great day for Britain and her allies, and tomorrow will be a national holiday – VE Day – at last. Preparations are already being made in the village – people unfurling flags and hanging streamers across the street and work going on at the church to install floodlights – they are going to test them at 10.30 pm.
Quite a crowd of people is already waiting, and the lights have just come on – the effect was worth waiting to see – rather like a stage setting, with the battlements and pinnacles of the south front standing out against a deep blue background. I believe it is the first time the church has been floodlit. Although everyone is happy and gay, one senses a sort of stupefaction, and going home I notice that most people are still drawing their blinds and putting up the black-outs.
Tuesday May 8th
The official VE Day – and it is raining. Everything is soaked and it looks as if the celebrations will be a flop. Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister, is going to address the nation at 3 o’clock. I am going up to the village to see what is happening.
Encountered a large gathering of children who have all got some sort of ‘weapon of noise’, banging and blowing and marching round the village. Found Mr. Hall, the church organist, selecting pieces to play between the Thanksgiving Service and the King’s speech, which will be relayed by loudspeaker into the church tonight. Returned home to listen to Mr. Churchill announce that from one minute past twelve tonight the surrender of all German forces will be official. It is 7 pm and the church bells are ringing – the first time since the outbreak of war – what a joyful sound. People are pouring into the church for the service and crowding in everywhere – it is jammed full – the collection speaks for itself – £35.
11 pm. I have joined a crowd of friends making merry over a few bottles of cider on our way to a bonfire in Longdon Road. The children are having a great time with lemonade, lollipops, sandwiches, etc. Everyone is in the best of spirits, and some members of the choir have been persuaded to lead the singing. This has gone on until the early hours of the morning, and we have finally stoked the fire with the waste paper bin and started to make for home. And so, for myself, ends VE Day in Knowle.
Wednesday May 9th
A message from the Vicar. there is to be community hymn singing outside the church this evening, to take place after a bonfire celebration in Kixley Lane.
10.45 pm. Everyone is assembled and a programme is hurriedly being arranged. As the church clock chimes 11 pm we all file outside and arrange ourselves within the area of the floodlights. The Vicar has announced the first hymn and the choir is drowned by the great chorus of voices from the crowd – a very moving and memorable experience. Everyone has sung themselves hoarse and photographs have been taken of the choir.
Everything is over now, and I am going off with some friends and the cider again.
About the Author
Ray Morton was born in 1930 and arrived in Knowle as a small child in the mid 1930s. In 1945 he was a member of the Men’s Choir at Knowle Parish Church. For the last 30 years he has lived in Rowington, where he was a founder member of Rowington Records. His wife, Valerie (nee Thompson), is one of the fifth generation of her family to have lived in Knowle, where she has been actively involved in local history since 1977.