Royal Greenwich marks VE Day 75
On 8 May 1945, the guns fell silent and years of carnage and destruction came to an end, officially recognising the end of the Second World War in Europe.
Millions of people took to the streets and pubs to celebrate peace, mourn their loved ones and to hope for the future.
Residents from all over the borough have been sending us photos, pictures of medals and stories of their friends and family who played their part in World War II, as well as pictures of VE Day celebrations in 1945. You can view these photos and memories below.
“My mum’s aunt, Dorothy Lawley, was about 18 when WWII began and like her dad wanted to help with the war effort. She signed up and served through the whole of the second world war with the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).
My grandad, Bill Tidy, was born in 1908 and lived in Woolwich and Eltham all his life. He joined the Royal Marines and was posted to HMS Nile in Alexandria, Egypt. One of his duties in the Marines was being a motorcycle messenger riding a motorcycle across the desert, delivering important messages. He told us that his strict orders were “if you get stopped or captured you must swallow the paper orders”. Luckily this never happened.
My mum Jean remembers living in Cuff Crescent, Eltham during the war as a child. There was an Anderson shelter in the back garden. Their local primary school was Middle Park Primary School and mum recalls how they took their gas masks every day to school. One night during the war, Middle Park Primary School was bombed. She has fond childhood memories of not being able to go to school and just playing with friends and sifting through the rubble finding bits and bobs.”
Jill Farrelly, family originally from Eltham
"My uncle Alf's medals from WWII after he served across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. He was in the Royal Engineers and was at Dunkirk. He passed away two years ago about two weeks short of his 98th birthday.”
Alan Wheble, Plumstead
“This is my dad, Albert John James, known as Jum due his size (Jumbo). He was born in 1916 and served in the Second World War. He was a sergeant and was in Africa and Hong Kong. He narrowly escaped death my diving under an ammunition lorry during a shooting.”
Frances Farren, Shooters Hill
“During WWII my dad, Tom Shreeves, was in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps as a rifleman. He was attached to 1st Motor Transport Battalion ‘C’ Company and was assigned as driver of a Bren Gun Carrier. From the campaign medals he received it appears that he served in both the North African and Italian theatres of war. He must have spent some time in Italy as when he returned, he spoke the language fluently.
For some reason this is a favourite picture of my dad (centre) and his mates. I just imagine that from their relaxed attitude and casual unbuttoned tunics that perhaps they have just returned from a slightly unauthorised trip to the local town in the company command car and made it back without being found out. We’ll never know!”
Tony Shreeves, Plumstead
“A photo at Trafalgar Square VE Day of my mother Joyce Flynn and her sister Connie Flynn. My mother was evacuated to a farm in Devon and as Connie was older, she stayed in London for the whole war – she worked in a munitions factory. Both amazing women who led extraordinary lives and enjoyed life to the full!”
David Lyon, originally from Eltham
“My mother Anne May Carter was born in July 1921 and served in the RAF.
My father Joseph Carter was born in April 1922 and served in the Army.”
Janis Clark, Charlton
“My Dad, Bill Skinner, from Plumstead served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War. He joined the Territorial Army in 1938 and his TA regiment was mobilised as the 65th Field Regiment (8th London) Royal Artillery TA in August 1939. He joined as a gunner and rose to the rank of Battery Sergeant Major. He served with the Allied Expeditionary Force in Northern France and was evacuated from Dunkirk. After a period of service in home defence his regiment was posted to North Africa as part of the 44th Home Counties Division 8th Army in 1941. He subsequently served at El Alamein, and the Italian campaign before his de-mob in 1946. He continued to serve in the Territorial Army until 1955.”
John Skinner, Shooters Hill
“My father William Edward Clements (Bill) served in the Royal Engineers. We know he was in France at some point and believe he was in Normandy."
Virginia Clements, Blackheath
Barbara Burns sent in this photo of a VE Day party on Crumpsall Street, Abbey Wood, 1945.
“My late father, Leslie Doust, joined the RAF in January 1940. He was an electrician. His longest posting was to Allahabad, India. He spent nearly four years there, finally coming home to Britain in December 1944. His ship stood out in the ‘roads’ waiting to dock in Liverpool for seven days. He often said that was the longest week of his life.
On VE day, dad, mum and mum's parents went to the local pub, but could not get to the bar, it was so busy. Mum was four months pregnant with me, so they decided to stroll home and simply celebrate with relatives, friends and neighbours.”
Carol Doust, Eltham
“My father, George Hawkins, was born in Plumstead in 1919, but in 1929 the family moved to Eltham. He was conscripted in 1939. He joined the Royal Sussex regiment and was sent to France with the British Expeditionary Force in April 1940. He was captured by the Germans on 29 May 1940, just south of Hazebrouk, when his regiment helped to defend the retreat to Dunkirk.
He was sent to a Prisoner of War camp, Stalag VIII-B, and to working party E72, the Hohenzollern coalmine in Beuthen (now Bytom in Silesia, Poland.) He was here for the duration of the war, working in the coalmine.
This photograph was taken at the coalmine. George is in the middle row, second from left.
On 22 January 1945, with the Russians advancing westwards, the prisoners were marched out into the snow during one of the coldest winters on record, and so began his long march to freedom. They were marched through Czechoslovakia and George eventually met the American forces on 24th April 1945 at Roding, Bavaria. He had walked nearly 600 miles, in freezing conditions at the beginning and facing days without food near the end.
George returned to the UK a few days before VE day.
Meanwhile his fiancé Eileen Clayton was living with her father in Eltham and was bombed out twice. One night, when they were living at The Vista, Eltham, there was an air raid. Her father refused to have the Germans make him use a bucket in the Anderson shelter and went indoors to use the toilet. At that time a bomb landed in the neighbouring allotments and the park railings came through the roof. Eileen found her father in the kitchen, with the railings having just missed him. Eileen was in the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) during the war.
In 2013 George represented the National Ex-Prisoner of War Association at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party.”
Christine Parry, New Eltham
“I lived with my mother and her parents at 19 Perrott Street, Woolwich during WWII. My paternal grandparents lost their home in Heavitree Road, Plumstead to a bomb.
Most of my family worked in the Arsenal, Perrott Street being right opposite the Second Arsenal gate. My father worked for Oliver Pell, Cambridge Drive, who were doing war work but was away with the RAF. My aunt worked at Colliers, later Matchless who were also doing war work.”
Norma Lawton, Eltham
“This is a photo of my nan and grandad when they were air raid wardens during the war.
They would have patrolled the streets at night during ‘black out’ making sure that no lights were visible. If a light could be seen, then bombing planes could get their bearings. They would have sounded the air raid sirens when a bombing strike was imminent to alert people and they would have helped civilians to the shelters.
My nan, Gertrude Williams, known as Doll, worked in the munitions factory during the war. She lost her son, Freddie Williams, when the merchant navy boat he was on was sunk by a U-boat. He was just 16 years old. My mum was a child through the war, but my aunt was of a working age and worked in the munitions factory in Woolwich Arsenal.”
Cassandra Reason and Laurinder Tennant, lived in Plumstead as children
“This is a photo of the Tyler Street VE Day party. My mother Ellen (Nell) Marsh is shown on the left wearing the Union Jack apron and I, Joan Marsh, am the last one, top row. The party was held on the south end of the street across Walnut Tree Road. The south east portion was bombed, and prefab homes were built as shown in the background.
I was evacuated to Wales on 5 Sept 1939 at seven years old and didn’t return home until late 1944, age 13 years.”
Joan Collins, grew up on Greenwich Peninsular
“This was a photo taken by one of the newspapers of the VE Day street party in Ancona Road, Plumstead. The two crosses on the photo are my grandparents who lived in Ancona Road for most of their lives, along with my nan's brothers and sisters who also lived in different houses in the same road.
This was a great house - there was a cellar plus two tunnels which took you straight into the cellar during air raids. One of the tunnels had a slide which was under the stairs and went straight to the cellar. The other came up at the front room of the house in order to get out if bombed. I think all the family stayed there during this time.”
Helen Jones, Plumstead
“London suffered badly from bombing between September 1940 and May 1941 and we girls spent many nights in the Anderson shelter. Whenever it rained it filled up with water, when it didn’t we shared it with mice.
Ours had an opening covered with an old curtain and weighted down with a paving slab. One night my little sister needed the potty which was just outside the curtain. As I leaned out, I must have leaned on the curtain unbalancing the paving slab which fell on my head knocking me out. My sisters yelled for mum who, with help from my brother, got me indoors. I had a week off school!”
Elizabeth Crawley, Woolwich
“My father, born into a Yorkshire mining family, Richard Newton, served as a sergeant with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in early 1944 at the Battle of Monte Cassino.
Before enlisting at age 18 he had worked as an apprentice carpenter, starting at 14. A story he enjoyed recounting was when he told his not too pleased boss he was leaving to join up, though I suspect his mother and father would have been naturally upset.
Here is an image of some things he wanted me to have, including the Star of Italy medal and his dog tags.”
Barry Newton, Greenwich
“My father, William (Bill) Slade was a lifelong resident of Greenwich. His WWII service was with the 4th Battalion of the Royal West Kent Regiment in Burma. He always said that victory celebrations were over by the time those serving in Burma got home.”
Janet Gillman, Greenwich
“This is me, the ten-year-old Bernice Lethbridge with the boy from next door, George, on VE day. I was living St Anne’s on Sea with my grandmother as an evacuee.”
Bernice Lethbridge, Eltham
“My Dad, Harry Barnett (1925 - 2016) joined the Royal Navy when he was 18. He was in South Africa on VE Day and I know that in 1944 he was serving on HMS Wellard (F137) an anti-submarine trawler. The photo shows him after the war (still in uniform) in the Navy dance band. My dad is playing the double bass in the back.
Here's also a picture of my granddad who served in the army during WWII. He's in his back garden standing next to the bunker.”
Louise Barnett, Plumstead
"I was called up in 1943 and did my training as a wireless operator in the Royal Air Force. On completing our training volunteers were asked to serve in the Royal Navy, as no-one volunteered, we had no option and was transferred.
My first ship was HMS Malaya, a WW1 Battleship and supported the D-Day landings. My second ship was the HMS Beachy Head, C in C Minesweepers in the Far East and returned home in l946.
I was fortunate to be on the MS Boudicca on the D-Day Voyage of Remembrance last June. This year I was appointed to the rank of Chevalier in the Ordre national de la Legion d'Honneur by the French President.”
Charles Roper Medhurst, Honorary President of the Royal Naval Association Greenwich
"Here's a picture from the VE street party when I lived in Battersea as a child. I'm the girl at the front on the left as you look at it - I appear to be wearing white. I was just 6 years old. I moved to Greenwich in 1973 and have been here ever since."
Pamela Lovibond, Greenwich
“A VE street party in Ladysmith Road Eltham celebrating the end of the war. My mum, Elizabeth, is in the back row and was 14 years old at the time.
She remembers on the actual day walking down with two of her neighbours to the Beehive pub in New Eltham and having a lemonade in the glass covered area of the pub as she wasn't obviously allowed in the main area of the pub.”
Helen Lloyd-Williams, New Eltham
Pictures sent in by Maria Andrea. This was her great uncle, Sidney William Tutton.