Yeovil Celebrated VE Day

1945 VE Day celebrations

How Yeovil celebrated the end of the Second World War


Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day, was the public holiday celebrated on 8 May 1945 to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender of its armed forces. It thus marked the end of World War II in Europe. Throughout the United Kingdom, more than one million people celebrated in the streets to mark the end of the European part of the war. In London, crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds.

In Yeovil, as elsewhere, the end of the war had been anticipated and preparations for the celebrations were already in hand. The BBC announced during the evening of Monday 7 May 1945 that the Prime Minister Winston Churchill would speak to the nation on the radio the following day which would be known as Victory in Europe Day. The end of the war was officially announced to the nation by Churchill at 3pm on 8 May. Both Tuesday 8 May and Wednesday 9 May were declared a public holiday.

Crowds danced in the streets of Yeovil and the Borough was packed with crowds. All churches in the town held thanksgiving services and the Boys' Brigade and Girls' Brigade, headed by their band, marched through the streets. At 4pm the Mayor of Yeovil, William Vosper, addressed the crowds in the Borough from a makeshift platform on the emergency water tank that had been erected on the site of the Medical Hall that had been bombed in April 1941.

There was also a civic welcome home for those returning from the services, each person receiving a leather wallet or note case bearing the town crest.

The Western Gazette reported "The scenes at Yeovil on the night of VE Day were unequalled on any occasion within memory. The mood of the crowd was one of unrestrained jubilation. Hundreds whirled around in fantastic dances, jitterbugging, laughing, singing and shouting. Music was played by Bill Kelly and his Band and relayed through amplifiers on a National Fire Service van. Scores linked arms and marched vociferously through the streets. When dusk fell the lights in the streets blazed in the Borough, while in Sidney Gardens and Bide's Gardens, high powered lamps strung among the trees gave theatrical beauty to the foliage and flower beds. In the centre of town St John's grey walls that had withstood bombs in 1941, although some of the windows were damaged, were floodlit. Crowds gathered there, seeking the sense of quietude and peace that were to be found only a stone's throw from the joyous shouts and whirling thousands in the Borough. Tired momentarily with dancing and hoarse from shouting, they lay at ease on the floodlit grass.

A cheer rent the air as the floodlights were turned on, then the revelry was renewed. The noise of fireworks and thunder flashes mingled with the music and the songs. Hour by hour the crowd thickened. The V.A.D. Somerset / 19 members patrolled the town, and several girls who had danced in rings until they were giddy and fainted were revived - only to begin again.
On and on the band played, on and on the dancers danced. Midnight struck. The band had played non-stop since the early evening. They played until they could play no more. The crowd gave them a ringing cheer as they laid down their instruments after the singing of 'Auld Lang Syne' and 'God Save the King'.

The band went home but the crowd didn't. From nowhere appeared accordions and hundreds at a time gathered round the single minstrel. Outside the Westminster Bank a large crowd gathered and dancing went on for nearly two hours. Cheering people marched through the streets right up to 3.30am. It was a night to remember!"

At 10.15 in the morning of VE Day plus one, 9 May, crowds lined the streets and cheered the mile-long parade of over a thousand men and women of the three fighting services, Civil Defence, and the United States Army, as led by three bands, they marched from Sherborne Road to the Huish Football Ground for the Public Thanksgiving Service. Many thousands of townspeople gathered in and around the Huish Ground, and there was cheering and warm applause as the US Army contingent marched in led by Sergeant CW Whittaker, proudly carrying the Stars and Stripes.

During the afternoon, crowds packed St John's churchyard for another Thanksgiving Service which was preceded by a parade of over 700 young people representing the town's youth organisations who marched to the church from the South Street car park.

Once again the evening was turned over to dancing, but on this occasion it was at the floodlit Huish Ground where a large crowd danced to Bill Kelly's Band. There was a concert in the Sidney Gardens given by the Westland Male Voice Choir and the Salvation Army Band played in the Borough.

However the highlight of the evening (quite literally) was the huge bonfire built on the top of Summerhouse Hill. At 10pm precisely the bonfire was lit by Column Officer Charles Mitchell of the National Fire Service, and as the flames roared up they took with them a more than life size effigy of Adolf Hitler, while adults and children danced around the blaze.

With many thanks to Jack Sweet for much of the above.




Courtesy of Anne Newton

Crowds gather in the Borough to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.


Mayor Vosper address the crowd in the Borough from a platform erected on an emergency water tank on the site of the bombed Medical Hall.


Mayor Vosper addressing the crowd in the Borough, with St John's church in the background.


.... and a view of the crowd listening to the Mayor at the eastern end of the Borough.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The crowd listening to the Mayor extended west across the Borough and into High Street.


Courtesy of Angela Wright

The Salvation Army's Yeovil Temple Band march along Princes Street. Judging by the bunting and the crowds, this is most likely to be VE Day.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The Boys' Brigade contingent of the VE-Day Victory Parade , march along King George Street. 8 May 1945.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The Girl Guide contingent of the VE-Day Victory Parade, march along King George Street. 8 May 1945.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The crowd begins to disperse along King George Street (apparently led by the navy) after the parade of 8 May 1945,


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

The crowd continues to disperse along King George Street, after the parade of 8 May 1945.


Bill Kelly and his Band played for the crowd all day and throughout the evening.


A colourised photograph of the crowds in the Borough that danced throughout the day and well into the night - and many carried on the following day!


At 10.15 in the morning of VE Day plus one, 9 May, crowds lined the streets and cheered the mile-long parade of over a thousand men and women of the three fighting services, the Yeovil Civil Defence contingent (seen here in Huish, outside Douglas Seaton's showrooms on the corner of Clarence Street), the Home Guard and the United States Army, led by three bands, they marched from Sherborne Road to the Huish Football Ground for the Public Thanksgiving Service.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

Ladies' Section of the Royal Observer Corps parade along Huish as part of the VE Day Plus 1 morning parade of 9 May 1945. Note the GIs in the foreground.


Crowds at the VE Day plus one, 9 May, morning Public Thanksgiving Service at Huish Football Ground.


Courtesy of John Murrell

Yeovil Girl Guides in the VE Day +1 parade march along Church Street to attend the afternoon Thanksgiving Service in St John's churchyard.


A colourised photograph of the crowds packed St John's churchyard for the Thanksgiving Service during the afternoon of VE Day plus one. Note that the windows of the church still show damage from the 1940 bombing.


A colourised photograph of the children of Stiby Road enjoy their party in the skittle alley of the Westfield Hotel on 9 May 1945 - VE Day plus one.


Courtesy of Chris May

Celebrating children and adults of the Beer Street area pose for a photograph.


Courtesy of Gill Blackshaw

... and around the corner, in Orchard Street, the residents gather for their group photo.


 In Vincent Street a celebratory fancy dress party was the order of the day, seen here in a colourised photograph..


Courtesy of Karl Garrett

The VE Day street party for the residents of Queen Street.


Courtesy of Allan Harding

The children's street party in Allingham Road, overseen by the parents.


Courtesy of Clive Hawkins

Residents of the Hillcrest Road area gather for a photograph.


Courtesy of Angela Smith

Children of Glenthorne Avenue (St Michael's end) celebrate VE Day.


Courtesy of Jean Mellings

The children of Coronation Avenue on VE Day 1945.


Courtesy of Sue Collin

Children of the Westfield area celebrate. Known children are Jean Preston née Goodland (the taller girl at front centre) and her sister Jill Davies née Goodland is to the right.


Courtesy of Claire Roberts

A celebratory street party in Westfield Road.


Courtesy of Rob Jacobs

The residents of Westland Road gather for a celebratory street party photograph.


Courtesy of Jack Sweet

A colourised photograph of Westland Aircraft's sheet metal shop decorated to celebrate VE Day.


The sentiments of all Yeovilians expressed in a Denner's advertisement placed in the 11 May 1945 edition of the Western Gazette.


Courtesy of John Fox

Children of the St Michael's Road and Great Western Terrace area gather outside the Methodist chapel at the eastern end of Great Western Terrace.

Known people (names added by John Fox - mostly from St Michaels Avenue, with door numbers) are -

The boy at the top is Brian Feinson no.110.

From the left, Mrs Ricketts no. 73.

The lady in front of the window just peeping between the two hatted ladies could be my mother, Annie Fox no. 75,

The two ladies in front of Brian are Mrs Diment with the hood, no.70 with her mother to her left. (Ken Tulk’s grandmother)

Next is Ken Tulk, now 90 and living in Thornford.

Then Mrs Roles ( the shoe repair family)

Mrs Beare (holding Carol in her arms???) who lived in the houses set back from the road between Roseberry Avenue and the Moose hall

The second lady from the door is possibly Mrs Day who lived near the Moose hall in St Michaels Ave.

Next to her is Mrs Clark no. 72

Then Mrs Neal ???

The lady in the suit holding the toddler I think is Mrs Hambridge, could be holding Gerald no.71

Of the two ladies with hats, the first could be Mrs Avery no 85, and, with glasses Mrs Deacon of Deacons Corner (which is the corner of St Michaels Ave and Grass Royal.

The boy with the open necked shirt is John Diment. no. 70

The dark haired lady in front of Mrs Clark is Mrs Trask who lived opposite Pen Mill School.

Holding Keith Channing (half hidden) is Beryl Auton (nee Clark) no. 72

Then it’s me John Fox in the arms of Elsie Channing no.81

The girl in front of Beryl and me is Sheila Tulk (Ken’s sister, who sadly died aged 37).

In the next row, fourth along is Trevor Beare

I think the three girls together are Avril Trask, Ann Ostler (Leonard) and Ann Swain

First girl in front row possibly Diane Day

Stuart Beare (holding the Union Jack) ex BR fireman, BT and one time landlord of The Milford Inn

The lady on the far right is Mrs Barry no. 77. Her daughter Phyllis worked on the news counter in WH Smith’s when it was open to the road in Middle St. (you then went through double glass doors to access the main shop interior).

The two little girls in the front could be Mary Hambridge (Spillsbury??) no 71 and Diane Ricketts (Affleck) no 73.