St Michael's Church

Published on February 8th, 2020 | by Content Admin


VE Day – Reminiscences from Aynho Folk

There is a very good chance the bunting and flags being displayed in Aynho streets today for the Victory in Europe 75th Anniversary are a glorious  look back to 1945 and the joy and relief in the village knowing that war was nearly over – and again there was a  future to be grasped and to which to look forward. So much would change.

But alas in Aynho there wasn’t bunting displayed and no great party was given at Aynhoe Park, in the pubs, or other venues, or in the streets across the village. Instead people were glued to their own or to neighbour’s radios to hear the news and the great speeches as they were broadcast.

There were still many soldiers billeted here and life on the 8th May 1945 seems just to have gone on as normal. Sybil Stevens of Roundtown, who remembers so much about the village  and villagers, said she can recall going to school in Banbury as normal…..”and no parties were had and no bunting was up” – so very different to the Coronation of King George in 1937 (the anniversary of which is on May 12th). Of course 7 men had lost their lives in service to their country; many sons, father, brothers were still away at the War, whether in Europe or out in the Far East, and some of course at sea. They would not be home to celebrate – nor would those who were evacuees in various parts of the Land and Commonwealth. For many households there was no good reason to celebrate – yet.

So today it is up to us to try to celebrate this momentous day in Aynho – look back to what happened in London and elsewhere, listen to the broadcasts on the radio as many did, and in the restrictions of this lockdown time do our very best for generations gone by who gave so much for us and our wished for “present day” freedoms!

In the village we have a group of wonderful elder folk – some in their 90s and others in their 80s. They have shared their individual stories – reminiscing about their VE Day in 1945 – in them you can understand why it wasn’t always a day to celebrate whilst others were in the thick of it!

Individual Reminiscences

Gwynne Edwards – of Portway Gardens – lived in a very small village of Grenoside, just north of Sheffield. The village had a tradition of dancing swordsmen that went back many years and always recruited a new member when someone dropped out. On VE Day they danced down through the winding village street collecting villagers on the way at the end they performed the sword dance ending with the swords in a star, and then the Maypole and other dancing and singing took over. Gwynne enjoyed dancing and singing very much and had a really lovely day.

Ted Sutton – of Bowmen’s Lea – lived in Ledwell near Chipping Norton. He recalls Lord Sandford throwing a huge party in Sandford Park for all the locals, and displaced people living there. Free beer all night – no food (rationing prevented that apparently! Ted made the most of it….and as a 15 year old came home he knows not how and in possession of someone’s old motorbike (his first one). He had been out of school for a year by then so was already becoming worldly wise.

Keith McClellan – of The Butts – a relative youngster remembers the celebrations but, as one so young (!) not quite in what order. “My parents took me up to Trafalgar Square and I remember being told to stay very close as a row of drunken sailors was celebrating wildly as they moved along”. Whilst in his Essex village of Hatfield Peverel, whether this was the same day, or perhaps was the later, or the celebration when Japan surrendered he can’t remember, but in the evening “we all went across to Claydon’s Garage, where he had cleared all the repair jobs and hung decorations everywhere. A band played for dancing and the whole village joined in. We small boys sat in the cab of the breakdown wagon. I grabbed the steering wheel and we drove, in our imagination, to all sorts of emergencies. We watched the adults have more to drink and dance more closely and giggled to ourselves. It was the latest night I’d ever had.”

Doris Middleton – of Raincliffe Close – remembers VE Day so clearly. She had returned as an evacuee and was in her last year at school and lived with her parents in Clapham. She clambered onto a train up to London with her friends, all together again, with her parents saying “behave yourselves” and “get back before the trains stop”. They went by train to central London via Trafalgar Square and linked arms with all sorts down The Mall to Buckingham Palace where she joined in the chant “We want the King” – and sure enough they saw the Royal family on one of their nine forays to the balcony of Buckingham Palace that day. “What a party it was –one of the most memorable nights of my life – and the good thing was it went on forever – the trains ran all night and for free!” Doris and her friends got home safely – eventually!


David Mobley – of Butts close – lived in Croughton – he, his brother and sister attended a wonderful children’s party at Croughton House hosted by Mrs Lettice Bowlby. Mrs Bowlby was a lady in waiting to the Queen Mother. David remembers that there was a Wellingtonia tree at the bottom of the road to Rowler; David and his friend climbed the tree and erected a Union Jack on the top! (Mrs Bowlby was an amazing woman – see link

Douglas Ward – of Aynho Court – too had been an evacuee from his home in Ilford, Essex. He was first sent with his school to Ipswich – then when it was decided it was not safe there he came back home for The Blitz, before moving out to Cranleigh in Surrey and thence finally to Bridgwater in Somerset. His father was an armourer in the Home Guard – looking after the weapons and ammunition; Douglas remembers his father bringing home the bullets and stripping them of their charge – “he didn’t trust any of the Home Guard with live bullets!” Douglas was away from home for virtually the whole 5 years and was still away on VE Day so there was no celebration for him that day – but he does remember celebrating at home again with his parents and elder brother on VJ Day in August!

Bob Mann – of Raincliffe Close – was a spry youngster too but in Beeston, Nottingham, where he “lived in a council house but at the posh end of a council estate”. There was a street party with tables and chairs on the street by his house. There was an organ grinder playing music for the dancing going on, with people dancing on their front lawn. Decorative lights up in the trees and hedges. His parents were dancing, but he felt “the atmosphere was serious, rather than full of natural enjoyment and fun.”


And finally

Elizabeth Cartwright –Hignett – formerly of Aynhoe Park – tells that she does “remember (vaguely) VE day and its celebrations. I was six at the time and we, my brother and I, and our nanny had just come back as evacuees from America to rejoin our parents, so my memories are partial and shaky. I have a feeling that the celebrations took place sometime after the actual date, and it is possible that I am really thinking of after VJ day. We were living mostly in London at the time as the Army was occupying the Park House and when we came to Aynho we stayed with my grandmother in the Grammar House.

The celebrations that I remember, if they are the right ones, took place in the Butts field and/or the Little Butts next door, both now occupied by housing. Then the Butts was the village football field with a hedge on the south side lined with enormous elm trees. There were all sorts of activities, but I was particularly enthralled by the men trying to climb the greasy pole for a prize at the top to much hilarity and ribald comments. Also, the attempts to capture a young greased pig in a large pen, the successful competitor being allowed to keep it (most village houses traditionally had a pigpen at the bottom of the garden and this went on for several years after the war).

I seem to remember that the weather was very good, which makes me think it is more likely to have been VJ day rather than VE day.”

This accords exactly with how Sybil Stevens – of Roundtown – remembers it too!


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