On Friday 8 May, on the grounds of Stanborough Park church the 75th Anniversary of VE Day was commemorated with a flag raising ceremony. Local groups and community representatives including One Vision, Watford's MP, the elected Mayor and BUC President, Pastor Ian Sweeney, were in attendance.
Each of the representatives spoke briefly of the sacrifices made for the freedom that we experience today, albeit coping with a different type of war in the guise of COVID-19. One of those in attendance and who gave a speech was local resident, Counsellor Liz Burns. She runs a veteran's group of 300 local ex-servicemen and women, some suffering from severe post-traumatic stress trauma. She is in daily touch each of them and provides valuable therapy groups.
Pastor Sweeney finished with prayer and explained that the church was broadly pacifist but expressed gratitude for those who gave up their lives for our freedom and drew attention to the adjacent Peace Garden that was created to coincide with the centenary of the First World War. The Lord Lieutenant of Hertfordshire was invited to attend but unable to make it so sent a video message.
Very senior members of Stanborough Park church were separately asked for their memories of VE Day. Of those received, one recalled a VE Day street party in Spring Gardens near the church. Two others remembered the day in more detail.
I was living in Scotland during the war, and we moved down to Stanborough Park, on 6th May 1946. So, I missed out on that Bonfire, but we did have celebrations up there in Glasgow. However, the church members were widely scattered, and we did not get together till sometime later to have a party with a meal of what each could bring with rationed food! I do remember that on VE Day at Hyndland School we were all seated in the huge school hall, on the floor of course, to hear the news and to sing, though I can't remember what we sang – maybe it was Vera Lynn's 'We'll meet again'. So many of the pupils had lost fathers or uncles. One of my uncles had been in the Royal Navy and his ship had been torpedoed by the Germans.
Another who lived close to Stanborough Park and remembered the events and witnessed the London crowds shared the following:
The date was Sunday 6 May 1945. We had just heard that Admiral Doenitz in Flensburg Castle had given the unconditional surrender of Germany. On Stanborough Park, I, together with loads of other scallywags, started collecting any combustible materials; over the next two days we built an enormous bonfire between the football pitch and the San tennis court to celebrate VE Day. We spent two days collecting and building the bonfire. On the great day my Mum and I went up early to London, met my Dad, a London fire Service fireman, and went to Piccadilly Circus together with thousands of others, (standing room only everywhere). Around midday we worked our way to the Mall and with tens of thousands of others, then down from there to Buckingham Palace. Around twelve noon we started chanting, "We want the King!,We want the King!", and after about half an hour, out he came, with the Queen and the Princesses onto the balcony and stayed for a quarter of an hour or so, waving to the crowds. This was accompanied by a continuous roar from the crowd as though the winning goal had just been scored in the Cup Final. When the Family went in everyone stayed put. My parents, with the excuse of a 9-year-old little boy, had worked their way down near to the front. Every hour or so the crowd started up again, “We want the King!”, and after half an hour or so, the Royal Family came out again. This happened several times in the afternoon and each time my Dad hoisted me on his shoulders, and I got an excellent view. Then, joy of joys, around 4 o'clock, they were joined by my hero the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill!
After this climax, we went home in time for the lighting of the enormous bonfire on Stanborough Park. The evening passed very merrily, with much jollity and singing – 'Rule Britannia', 'There will always be an England', 'We'll Meet Again', 'The White Cliffs of Dover', 'Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major' etc, and we kids would throw a potato in the fire, then hoick it out roasted and devour it (delicious!). Around midnight (I had never been up till then) we drifted home and to bed. Ah, such sweet Memories of Yore.
See pictures below.