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VE Day 75: What toll did the Second World War take on Ilford?

PUBLISHED: 16:30 08 May 2020

A VE Day celebration in Audrey Road in 1945. Picture: Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre

A VE Day celebration in Audrey Road in 1945. Picture: Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre

Archant

The Second World War in Europe lasted from September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945 when Germany signed the unconditional surrender.

VE Day 1945 in Meads Lane, Seven Kings. Picture: Redbridge Museum & Heritage CentreVE Day 1945 in Meads Lane, Seven Kings. Picture: Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre

After six long years of death, misery, strain and rationing there was an explosion of children’s street parties which was no surprise.

There were at least 120 held in Ilford and 48 in Wanstead and Woodford.

On the same day along Ilford High Road outside the Town Hall, which was strung with bunting, the mayor, Cllr Beatrice Harding, proclaimed the end of the war.

Sadly, Ilford suffered the greatest number of devastating hits from air raids, and particularly V1s and V2s.

At least 538 who served in the armed forces were killed but a higher number, 552, were killed in and around Ilford.

The home front could be as dangerous as any front line and now it was all over – thank god many thought and now it was time to let off a bit of steam.

In the evening of VE Day there was literally dancing in the streets as Meads Road, Ilford was closed off, floodlights lit the street – after years of the nightly blackout – as the White Lyrics dance band struck up popular dance tunes.

Queues formed outside bakers as housewives used their ration books, coupons and money to purchase extra supplies of bread (which wasn’t rationed) to make sandwiches and all sorts of cakes, though sugar was rationed.

On May 10, in Danehurst Gardens there was a large spread of bread, butter and jam, sandwiches, a victory cake, fruit salad, jellies, milk, tea and orangeade.

There were bonfires and bands in Clayhall Park and Goodmayes, concerts and a fun fair in Valentines Park.

Many churches laid on thanksgiving services and the bells rang out in celebration.

The Town Hall was brilliantly lit up at night and the police struggled with crowds who danced with joy in the High Road blocking the traffic.

It was a heady time of beer, wine and tears for some adults who had made it through, while for the kids there was the rare treat of jelly and ice cream.


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