NEWSLETTER - 25th APRIL 1995
THE DAY THAT MARKED THE END OF THE WAR
Firstly can I wish you all a happy Saint George's Day (23rd April).
Very shortly we shall be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of V.E. Day (Victory over Europe Day) and certainly Rotherham Borough Council are entering into the spirit of things by organising all manner of activities in the town centre for the afternoon of the 8th May 1995. In our newsletter this month I would like to take you back to those heady days just after the war when it really hit us that it was at last at an end. This was not V.E. Day or V.J. Day (Victory over Japan), which followed in the August of the same year but V.Day (Victory Day), which was held on the 8th June 1946, and officially marked the end of World War Two.
It poured and poured with rain but nothing dampened the enthusiasm of the day which officially marked the end of the war. My maternal grandfather William Blount (the electric man) along with others, had spent long hours stringing our streets with fairy lights and Post Office Square was to be floodlit, as well as being bedecked in buntings, festooned in flags, and a myriad of coloured electric light bulbs.
The celebrations started for some Mexborough people the Saturday before in London whose parades and revelry preluded the rest of the country. My father, dressed in the bearskin and red tunic of the Coldstream Guards, perspired freely in the hot sunshine as he marched proudly up the Mall like thousands of other soldiers that day, whilst my mother, then in her mid teens, sat on the edge of the pavement watching them go by, little knowing that in a few years she was to meet and marry one of them. These were not the only ones either to find themselves in London that day. Roland Plater from Wath Road, was in one of the pipe bands, Kenneth Spyve of Old Denaby was one of the drivers, and thirty five members of the Songster Brigade and the Male Voice Quartet of Mexborough Salvation Army conducted the service at Southall Broadway Salvation Army Citadel in London, and these are to name just a few.
Mexborough Active Services Comforts Fund was giving out 1,500 pewter tankards and bowls to ex-servicemen and women. A collection had been taken for the widows and orphans of those who had lost their lives in the Merchant Navy, and over 1,300 vouchers worth 2s. 6d. (12 1/2p) were distributed to the old people and widows by the Mexborough Chamber of Trade and Roman Terrace Old Folks Treats Committee to enable them to celebrate, also to help families in need, for example evacuees or those who had been 'bombed out'. The American Red Cross sent clothes parcels and these were distributed by Mrs. Bradshaw, whilst Mexborough Urban District Council got on with the serious job of re-housing them in pre-fabs close to the top of Pitt Street and building preminent homes on Highwoods Road. As a matter of interest the first group of pre-fabs (bungalows made in sections at a factory and fitted together on site) arrived in this area on the 16th March 1946 from Messrs. Costain Ltd., London and were erected in Swinton.
To make sure that everyone had their medals for the special day, the South Yorkshire Times for months prior to this carried advertisements asking all members of the Home Guard, Air Raid Wardens, and ex-servicemen and women to obtain a D.M.2 Form from our post office and hand it into J. Shillito at the Police Station and he would process it for them. He, during the war, had been our Head Divisional Warden.
Saturday 8th June 1946 dawned with a downpour, which did not stop until the evening. At 10.15 a.m. everyone concerned collected at the top of Station Road (I believe that this could have been next to the Montagu Arms Hotel) and organised themselves into a parade which was headed by the Silverwood Colliery Band. This was then followed by representatives of Mexborough Urban District Council and Council Officials, the West Riding Special Constabulary, British Legion, St. John's Ambulance, the Labour Party, including Women's Section, and a vast number of other organisations too numerous to mention here. The procession, marching three abreast, being so extensive that when the beginning was going into the Parish Church for the thanksgiving service, and others lined up on Quarry Street, the end was still on Doncaster Road. After the service they then went on to the War Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony where they were met by a throng of people. Lastly, they marched back to the Market Hall (now Walker Bingo Hall) where homage was paid to Sapper Hackett V.C. at the memorial before disbanding.
Hewitt Street, Church Street, Catherine Street, Dodsworth Street, Beaconsfield Street, and Stentons Yard won prizes for the best decorated streets in our town with Hewitt Street winning overall. There were still some street parties despite the weather but on the whole they seem to have been postponed or transferred indoors. At Swinton the Charles Street party was transferred to the Station Hotel and Hatherley Road to the Cresswell Arms.
We think of graffiti as being a product of the modern age, but on, that day it was the only way in which some people could express the enormity of what they were celebrating, and for years afterwards I can remember seeing large victory V's which had been painted on the brick walls which lined College Road. Also in WathUpon-Dearne close to Montgomery Hall there was a "Wot" painting done, this read "Wot No Celebrations in Wath' as this town found that it could not afford any official celebrations.
For weeks the Bowbroom area had been talking of the boxing match of the year when Noah Skitt the Staffordshire Catchweight Champion was to take on Jimmy Scorah the Bowbroom Flyweight Champion. One was 78 years old and the other 74 years. It was all in fun of course and the proceeds were for charity. While on Park Road a party for seventy children from Mexborough Catholic Church was held in the Catholic Club with teas for the mothers to follow, each child receiving a special gift in recognition of the extraordinary day.
Everyone had the day off work, (don't forget in those days people worked on a Saturday), and many took the opportunity for a days holiday at the sea side.
Mexborough Motor Cycle and Light Car Club went to Bridlington for the day, as did the staff and their families of the Yorkshire Co-Operative Bakeries (now the Coltron Factory, Church Street) and sixteen of them took part in a fishing match in the bay.
For the South Yorkshire Times there was a dual celebration as the Managing Director Mr. Turner was celebrating fifty five years with the paper and a special train was hired from the L.N.E.R. to carry the three hundred staff and workpeople to Scarborough for the day, where luncheon for them all was held at the Spa Corner Cafe. Mr. and Mrs. Turner were presented with a gold cigarette case and green Rockingham Writing set respectively.
By evening the rain had stopped and the festivities could really begin. A huge bonfire was lit behind the Plant Hotel on Wath Road and at 10.15 p.m. a mortar was set off and two rockets sent up as a preliminary signal to the start of a glorious fireworks display on Northcliffe Craggs in Denaby. This was watched by 2,000 people many taking a rest from dancing at the Baths Hall to watch it, some of these being members of our local council.
At the Empress Ballrooms in Post Office Square there was a dance and carnival at which the revelry just kept going on all night through. Red, white and blue balloons were suspended from the ceiling in a huge net which was released during the night (this could have been after the interval at 10.30 p.m.). Bert Clegg and his orchestra provided the music. Dancers spilled out into Post Office Square where they joined others drunk with the exuberance of the night. Many danced until dawn which brought with it not just the start of a new day but the start of a new era.
Cuttings from the South Yorkshire Times and personal memories from various people went to make up this newsletter, if you wish to consult the newspaper cutting please get in contact with me.