Celebrating VE Day: Through my grandmother’s eyes

By Anita Jaynes on 8 May, 2020

This year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic the UK is celebrating VE Day 75 (Friday 8th May 2020), 75 years since the end of fighting in Europe during the Second World War. 

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has thwarted large scale events, many of us will still be marking the day in our own way both as individuals and as businesses. 

I will be celebrating VE Day in memory of my grandmother. She died in January 2019, aged 95. She was a teenager during the war and recalling VE Day her face lit up. It was one of the many stories she told with much animation. I’m not saying the day didn’t mean the world to my other grandparents, I just think she knew how to party, and it was recalled as one of the best days of her life.

My grandmother (Mary Rogers) was from Wiltshire and grew up in Colerne village. A place transformed during the war with its airbase used by Fighter and Bomber Command. Previously a sleepy village, it became a hive of activity with serviceman stationed there from all over the country. My grandfather was one of them and was brought to Colerne from his home in North Wales to serve for his country in the RAF. My grandmother met my grandfather (Cyril Rogers) at chapel and became a war time bride in 1942. 

On 7th May 1945, Winston Churchill announced that Germany had officially surrendered. He also declared that the next day would be a national holiday.

Nan (left) with her cousin Joan Champion, also from Colerne, taken during war time.

I’m not sure where grandad was on VE Day (he’d been sent to both Alexandria in Egypt and Gibraltar), but I know my grandmother left the village with friends in the early hours of Tuesday 8th May 1945. She must have listened to Churchill’s speech on 7th May declaring May 8th a national holiday and quickly hatched a plan. They jumped on the milk train and headed to London to be part of the crowd for one big celebration. She partied in the streets, she rode on the footplate of Eisenhower’s car and she danced in Trafalgar Square and climbed monuments! I wish we had photographic evidence! Perhaps I’ll see her today in the footage being played as part of VE Day 75 celebrations, it wouldn’t surprise me and gosh, would she have loved the idea of being on TV.

I’m sad nan couldn’t be alive to celebrate today with us. She would have absolutely loved to see the country coming together again for one big party. Today we’ve strung the union jack bunting to the front of our house, and I’ve organised a 1940s style picnic. We have pork pies, cheese straws, scotch eggs, scones, lemonade and pink gin. At 11am we will take part in the national 2-minute silence, we will watch the live stream on the British Legion’s website, and we’ll tune in to BBC One at 9pm to join in with the national sing-along to Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’.  We’ll be raising our glasses and giving a big cheer to nan, my other grandparents and all the men, women and children that made sacrifices for us to be here today. We might not be allowed to party in the streets this year, but those days will soon be here again.

Celebrating Nan’s 92nd birthday

Visit the Royal British Legion website and watch the VE Day 75 livestream from 11:15am (Friday 8th May 2020) www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/ve-day-75-livestream

Pictured top: My grandmother, Mary Rogers on her 90th birthday