Six-year-old saw the Trafalgar Square celebrations

THE street parties and parades originally planned to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day may have been cancelled but residents in the Warminster and Westbury area are still intending to mark the day.

Back in 1945, people celebrated the end of the war in Europe with church services, parades, tea parties, dances and by ringing church bells.

This year, they will celebrate with Stay at Home tea parties and sing-alongs because of the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing regulations.

In Warminster, town councillor Rob Fryer, who was present in Trafalgar Square in London, on VE Day 1945, is planning to commemorate the anniversary with a cream tea in his garden with his partner Sue Burrow.

Cllr Fryer, now 81, was just six years old when he was taken to Trafalgar Square by his mother Jean, but remembers the VE Day celebration on May 8, 1945 very well.

He recalls: “I remember walking the one and three-quarter miles with my mother to Trafalgar Square to watch the parade.

“It seemed to have been arranged almost as soon as victory had been announced. I don’t remember any stands or decorations.

“My mum asked a fairly tall young man to hoist me onto his shoulders where I had a splendid view – better than my mother and almost everyone else.

“This was going to be exciting. First of all came the Royal Navy, because they were the senior service. Then came the Guards regiments and then followed every possible regiment that I could think of in both our army and air force and every other army from every Dominion and Colony of the British army and our allies.

“Then followed the police, ARP, fire engines, dust carts and finally a grey-painted double-decker bus with the cheery conductor standing at the back waving to everyone, while holding on to the vertical hand bar.

“Even at my young age I recognised that this was a very inclusive and friendly victory parade – not exactly triumphalist. It was a great memory.

“As I remember it, the crowd then swarmed through Admiralty Arch and down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where everyone started calling for the King.

“We were not to be disappointed, for in a fairly short time both the King and Queen and the Prime Minister Winston Churchill appeared to a roar of approval from the crowd below. My mother had done me proud that day. I had witnessed history.”

He and Sue, 66, will stay at home with a cream tea and champagne, while listening to old wartime songs from the 1940s.

Sue said: “I have made some coffee sponge and a Victoria sponge cakes and we will out red, white and blue bunting in the front garden. Hopefully, we will see some of the passers-by.”

In Heytesbury, the Red Lion pub is offering a cream tea collection box today with scones, cream and jam and freshly made sandwiches and cake and in the evening, residents will be able to collect takeaways of beer-battered cod and chips or pie and mash.

Local resident Robert Pulvertaft said: “At 3pm today there will be a national raising of glasses to ‘pay tribute to the many millions at home and abroad that gave so much’. The Toast will be ‘To those who gave so much, we thank you’.

“In Heytesbury, from around 2.45pm onwards the bells will ring out and just before 3pm there will be a siren broadcast by PA from the Red Lion, on the High Street.

“After the toast there will be Dame Vera Lynn performing The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again by MP3, not in person.”

He added: “Many local VE Day celebrations have needed to be cancelled due to coronavirus but it is hoped that as many people as possible will mark the occasion in some way.”

At Westbury Court care home in Westbury, residents have been preparing for VE Day by colouring in their own red, white and blue pennants and creating bunting.

The Sovereign Housing Association is encouraging its residents in the town to produce pennants and bunting to decorate their homes and gardens.

They will be urged to chat with their neighbours while respecting social distancing rules.

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