Our Grandma’s Memory of VE Day
As many in Britain celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) day on 8th May my lovely sister Holly shared this recount from our Grandma with our family which we thought others may find of interest. I thought it was particularly relevant during this time where many in the world are battling COVID-19 and dreaming of a victory day which will come.
Especially relevant for these times seems King George VI’s radio broadcast which our Grandma shared: ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’
VE Day Recount from Olwen Eddowes –Written by Holly Gray after interviewing our amazing Grandma Olwen who still has such a sharp memory!
The 8th May 1945 was the day peace emerged after nearly six years of war, so the 75th anniversary on 8th May 2020 represents an important milestone in our history.
This is our remarkable Grandma, Olwen Eddowes, who is 95 years young. She grew up in County Durham and now resides in the county of Shropshire, in a beautiful village named Edgmond.
In 1943, she had been appointed a place at Queen Mary College in the East End. Due to the threat of bombs, the students were evacuated to different, safer places. For Olwen, this meant moving to Cambridge, a city on the River Cam in eastern England, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge. It was a city she grew very fond of over the next two years.
This is her recount of VE Day, 75 years ago. She still remembers the day like it was yesterday, from memory, but also had her diary on hand for additional details.
Monday 7th May 1945
It was a full day. I was playing tennis at Newnham College with my friend Enid. When we returned, we saw news of VE day on the notice board. We cycled crazily round and round Cambridge before heading back to drink lemonade and eat Turkish delight. We then cycled back into town, to the marketplace, where we saw all the revelry. There was a great deal of noise, crowds of people, people climbing the fountains and singing of all sorts. We got back late.
The spirit of celebration is catching and I feel I could join in the excitement to a certain extent. But I do wish the victory in Burma were here so brother John, and Keith could be home.
Tuesday 8th May 1945
VE Day started off with an hour’s canoeing with my friend Ruth. It was so pleasant and everybody we met was friendly. After lunch, we saw people playing classical music and they were playing their musical instruments, while punting along the River Cam. We were helping to punt and it was great, great fun!
At 3pm that day, we heard Churchill from a portable wireless set announcing the end of the war in Europe. After, we came home to have some tea.
After a couple of hours, we went out again to the marketplace, which was an area of greenery in the centre of Cambridge. We went out to hear King George VI’s radio broadcast at 9pm. ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’
In the evening, we went to a church service and after that we went back to the common for a bonfire, search lights and music! Alfred and John were very kind escorts and looked after us.
It’s a very strange end of war!
Wednesday 9th May 1945
We have spent all of the day on the river attempting to punt down to Grantchester, which is a quaint village beside the River Cam. It has been good fun apart from showers and the fact we kept bumping into trees!
And now all the celebration of VE is over. We really must get down to work and the building up of this new world we talked so much about. Let us hope and pray that something can be done this time.
Friday 11th May 1945
Today, we went to a Victory lunch at the British Restaurant. This is a cheaper restaurant where they serve dishes like bangers and mash. I enjoyed playing tennis again before attending a King’s College service.
After the war, Olwen was reluctant to return to London, as were many of her friends. They had grown accustomed to life in Cambridge. She remembers using a Ouija board with her friends to ask “Will we ever have to go back to London?” Unfortunately the answer was yes!