Bolsover District U3A Celebrates VE Day

On this day 75 years ago. 

Images from the day are here.

This page comprises many contributions from members of Bolsover District U3A.

We hope you enjoy browsing and reading these wonderful contributions received over the past week. 



    • V-E Day 8th May 1945
    • The part the Lancaster Bomber played in Victory in Europe
    • Members’ Memories of VE Day 
    • The Family History Group
    • World War 2 Goodies
    • Churchill Trivia
    • A few facts about WW2
    • The photo Gallery

V-E Day 8th May 1945

Victory in Europe Day, generally known as VE Day is a day celebrating the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War II of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces on 8th May 1945.

Celebrations for the 75th Anniversary have, as we know, been postponed it is hoped that the planned events will take place later in the year. But for now perhaps we can all take few moments to reflect, be thankful and rejoice that at least Europe found peace on the 8th May 1945.

Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, had committed suicide on 30th April during the Battle of Berlin and Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The administration headed by Dönitz was known as the Flensburg Government. The act of military surrender was first signed at 02:41 on 7 May in SHAEF HQ at Reims, and a slightly modified document was signed on 8th May in Berlin.

Most European countries celebrate the end of World War II on 8th May. Russia, Belarus, and Serbia celebrate on 9th May, as did several former Soviet bloc countries. Israel also marks VE Day on 9th May, as a result of the large number of immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, although it is not a public holiday. The term VE Day existed as early as September 1944, in anticipation of victory.

Great Britain remembered the 50th anniversary in 1995 with a Lancaster bomber dropping poppies in front of Buckingham Palace. Upon the defeat of Germany, celebrations erupted throughout the western world, especially in Great Britain and North America. More than one million people celebrated in the streets throughout Great Britain 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. Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to wander incognito among the crowds and take part in the celebrations.

Excerpts from Wikipedia 2020

The part the Lancaster Bomber played in Victory in Europe: Jen Sykes, Membership Secretary

Although I do not personally have any memories of VE Day, I have, for the last 12 or so years, been a member of the Lincolnshire Lancaster Association and I am frequently reminded of the part that the Lancaster Bomber played in Victory in Europe.  

From being a young girl, watching the old black and white films on Sunday afternoons with the family, I was always aware of the part that the Lancaster Bomber and her crews played in the eventual victory which was won so hard, for so many people, and even before I ever saw the Lancaster in real life I recognised the throb of its Merlin Engines long before it came into sight over our house on its return to RAF Coningsby after a fly over somewhere else in the country.

Many people know that the Lancaster Bomber was the aircraft used to deploy the Bouncing Bomb, designed by Barnes Wallis, and which was used to produce such a successful outcome by 617 Squadron, under the command of Wing Commander Guy Gibson.  The mission, carried out in May 1943, destroyed the Mohne Dam, which supplied water to all the factories in the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

As a member of the Association I am privileged to be able to attend the Members’ Day in October each year, which is the last day that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight takes to the skies before all the aircraft are stripped down over the winter ready for the following year.  It is a very moving day as, as well as the fly pasts, the people who gave their lives to enable Victory in Europe are honoured.

There were 7,377 Lancasters produced and 3,249 were lost in action; 55,573 airmen of Bomber Command died in World War II, their average age being 22.  156,000 missions were carried out over the period of the war.  Now only 2 Lancasters are able to fly, although I think there are about 14 complete aircraft in the world.  One of these is stationed at East Kirkby, and for my 60th birthday I went in “Just Jane” whilst she taxied around the grounds of the airfield.  I was able to sit in the pilot’s seat, the radio operators seat and experience a little of what it must have felt like to be in the tiny nose cone.

In August 2014, the second airworthy Lancaster which is stationed in Canada, came over to celebrate the part played by the Lancaster in the final victory and we were able to see them both flying over the Ladybower Dam.  A truly emotional sight.


My memories of VE Day on May 8th 1945Gene

Born in 1942, my war memories are few; ours must be one of few families that did not suffer personal loss. We had one uncle that went away to war and came home safely; whilst he was away, my Granny a widow whom he lived with, being frightened to be alone, was supplied with one of my brothers to keep her company.  She lived in Lesmahagow, Scotland, and Billie apparently hated being there. He has subsequently told us she was always beating him; he was a bit of a handful

Next door to us was a lady whose husband was in the services, she likewise was afraid on her own, so every night I was got ready for bed then transferred next door to sleep with Mrs Cook.  I quite liked this; her house was better than ours and she made a fuss of me and I shared her bed.

We lived in a semi wartime prefab; re-housed there after our house rented apparently burnt down; not by the war, but my Father dropped a burning cigarette which fell through the cracks in the floorboards into the cellar, smouldered and eventually burst into flames. (note the bare floorboards) but this was just before I was born; the prefabs were built specifically to re-house people who got bombed out and were supposed to have a 5 yr. Life span I was born in the prefab; my brother tells me they were sent out to play and not allowed back in until after the event, and lived there until I was in my teens before new houses were built and the prefabs demolished.

My Father worked at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick; making aeroplane engines so did not go away to war, I do I remember my Father being sent to Coventry (literally) to work in the factory there during all the bombing.

What I remember most about the war was our time on the Ranch, as the prefabs were known; there was a sense of camaraderie we were all in the same boat, as new people moved in, neighbours would gather to offer help. One family in particular arrived late evening with few possessions, neighbours brought army blankets, food, buckets of coal, spare bits of furniture and before the night became dark, the family were settled., fed,  warm and safe. During all my childhood there, the doors were never locked; neighbours went in and out of houses for tea and a chat; child care was shared around, cups of tea and sugar borrowed, was it ever paid back? I remember the rationing, the swapping of coupons from ration books and the sharing. Yes we were poor, but so was everyone else. VE day, I remember only that we had a party, tables were set up in a field behind the estate and everyone brought as they were able, this was a merry occasion but sadly no photographs or souvenirs of my wartime experience.


My memories of VE Day on May 8th 1945:  Barbara

Well, I had just turned 17 and was in the Lower 6th form at Portsmouth High School (girls only, OF COURSE). But along with most other schools, the school had been evacuated to escape the much-bombed naval port of Portsmouth. We were located in a large house near Petersfield, about 10  miles outside the city, and had enjoyed the wonderful grounds of the house and the freedom to wander and play as we wished outside school time.

Although most of the horrors of the war ŵere not over-stressed to we children, as we reached the lower 6th form, we were allowed to read a newspaper, so became much more aware of progress. It had never occurred to me that ŵe would lose the war, just a matter of when victory would come. I don’t think l was alone in this, which may say something about how the government kept the public informed – no TV, no Internet – just the BBC radio, but at school this too was mostly confined to the teachers.

These teachers taught, fed, entertained, nursed we youngsters day and night until the blessed relief of school holidays, when we all returned home to be potentially bombed – though, thankfully, we didn’t lose any of my fellow students.

We were aware that victory could be near, but I only remember the head teacher announcing this at morning assembly. I don’t recall cheers or claps …… maybe because the announcement was followed by the news that the next day would be a holiday and we could go home if we were able. Wow!! That was REALLY important news! We cheered!

But it created problems as there was little private transport – petrol rationing – and buses were limited. But, luckily for some of us, 5th/ 6th formers were allowed to have their bikes at school, mostly because those in the science stream had to go to a neighbouring school some distance away for our science lessons, as they had a laboratory. So I and three of my friends who had bikes  ŵere given permission to cycle home. 

As we set off – minimal luggage in bags on our backs – I remember  near-empty roads, which was the norm, as only families with essential travel jobs had cars. So I remember cycling pretty badly – swinging in circles, feet on handle bars – yeah!!! Laughing, singing…. Once, a car passed us and the passengers waved and cheered out of their windows. 

My wartime home was in a country village called Waterlooville just outside Portsmouth, and was the first to be reached, so we all turned up unannounced to the great surprise of my Aunts who had undertaken to home myself and my 4 other Portsmouth-based school-age cousins in holidays, to keep us safer. But my amazing Aunts gave us all a great welcome and provided drinks for us all, before my friends continued to their own homes in Portsmouth. The drinks would have been tap water, food rationing didn’t allow wasting coupons on such luxuries as fancy drInks – orange juice, lemon juice, even had they been available.

That night, after making up the spare room bed and sharing some of the Aunts’ tea rations, I listened to Churchill speaking to us all on the Radio and for the first time began to wonder what would happen next  ……? Would the school go back to down-town Pompey, would I be returned to live with my step-mother, who had been driving ambulances in Portsmouth during the Battle of Britain. Would exams be postponed? Would rationing stop? Many uncertainties. But much relief that we no longer had to listen out for air raid sirens.

I don’t recall celebrating with my two Aunts, and there didn’t seem much happening in the rest of the village community but, as night fell, we began to hear fireworks screaming from the direction of Portsmouth, and the sky began to be lit up with colourful beams and sparkles, something unseen throughout the last six years – I watched this from my bedroom window, before flopping back under my blankets to continue pondering the many questions in my mind and trying to understand that the life I had known for much of my school days was ended and a new life would emerge. I had no idea what the future held. We were a very ‘advanced’ family and had a telephone, thanks to my Dad who needed to be able to keep in touch with his family while he worked and fire-watched in London, so by the following weekend we had been able to contact my friends and arrange the return trip to school. Exams coming up!

A memorable time, but not the wild celebrations that apparently were taking place in larger communities. But these memories of wartime Britain have raised many questions comparing those times with the present corona times.

My memories of  VE Day, May 8th 1945: Peter

I don’t remember much about VE Day, as I was coming up to 5 years old then. My father was a CPO in the Royal Navy and was on his way to the other side of the world at that time, so it was a bit of a non-event for mum and me. We were living in a village called Horsley, between Newcastle and Hexham, and I remember everyone celebrating outside the Lion & Lamb pub opposite our house. However, we knew that dad was en route to Australia, with a probability that he would then be heading to Japan, so it wasn’t the end of the war for us. In fact he did land in Japan shortly after the surrender and he went to Hiroshima while he was there. What he saw horrified him and had a profound permanent effect on him. It reinforced his decision to go into the ministry on leaving the Navy.

Sadly, all of dad’s and most of mum’s photos got lost or destroyed during mum’s last house move. They included pictures of HMS Arethusa and HMS Manxman – the two ships dad served most of his time on. There were also photos of Gibraltar, Malta, Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, loads of places in India, South Africa, Mt Fuji, Hiroshima and many other spots all around the world during the 1930s and 1940s. The only photo I can find of him is a wedding group photo from round about 1933. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact date – I wasn’ t there! I attach a copy, but don’t know if it will be any good. Dad’s name was Henry Rex Coombs, always known as Rex, and he was awarded the BEM

HMS Arethusa                                                    HMS Maxman

Arethusa was assigned to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean on completion and was still there at the onset of World War II in September 1939. However, early in 1940 she and her sister Penelope were recalled to the Home Fleet, where they formed the 2nd Cruiser Squadron with the remainder of the class. She participated in the Norwegian Campaign in April 1940, but on 8 May she joined the Nore Command, where she supported the defending forces in Calais and later aided the evacuations from French Atlantic ports.

On 28 June 1940 she was a component of the newly formed Force “H” at Gibraltar, with which she participated in the action against Vichy French forces at Mers el Kebir in July 1940. With Force “H” she took part in convoy protection patrols in the Atlantic and operated in the Mediterranean.

During the sortie of the German battleship Bismarck in May 1941 she was employed in Iceland and Faroes waters, but by July she had returned to the Mediterranean, where she escorted Malta convoys and herself ran supply trips to the island. Towards the end of 1941 she returned to home waters and took part in the Lofoten raid in December, where she was damaged by near misses. After refit and repair at Chatham until April 1942, she returned to the Mediterranean in June 1942, where she joined the 15th Cruiser Squadron, operating mostly in support of the resupply of Malta.

Position of Arethusa during the Invasion of Normandy
While on Operation Stoneage, a torpedo from an Italian aircraft struck Arethusa on 18 November 1942 and caused heavy casualties. She received temporary repair work in Alexandria that lasted until 7 February 1943, after which she proceeded to Charleston Navy Yard, Charleston, South Carolina, United States, for full repair. These were completed by 15 December 1943, and the ship then returned to Britain.

In 1941 Arethusa had been adopted by the people of the City of Swansea. A memorial relief to the 156 men killed in the November 1942 aircraft attack can still be viewed in the city’s Maritime Quarter. Swansea Museum’s reserve collection at its Landore facility contains the ship’s badge, a 20mm Oerlikon AA gun salvaged from the Newport scrapyard, and a scale model of the ship.

She did not become fully operational again until early June 1944, when she sailed for the invasion of Normandy, forming part of Force “D” off Sword Beach. She had the honor of carrying King George VI across the channel to Normandy, when he toured the beaches and visited the Allied command headquarters. On 24 June she came under air attack in Seine Bay and sustained some damage. On 25 June a magnetic mine detonated in her wake. The shock damage was fairly extensive, the cruiser went to Portsmouth for repairs then to a commercial yard for yet another refit and did not return to service until September.

By January 1945, she was part of the 15th Cruiser Squadron with the Mediterranean Fleet and stayed there until October 1945 when she returned to the United Kingdom and was immediately placed in the reserve (at the Nore).

There was a tentative plan to sell her to the Royal Norwegian Navy in 1946 but this came to nothing and she was placed in category ‘B’ reserve. Because the Navy considered her class of ships too small to be worth modernising, the Navy used Arethusa for trials and experiments in 1949 before allocating her to BISCO for disposal. On 9 May 1950, she arrived at Cashmore’s, Newport, for breaking up.  Courtesy of Wikipedia 

My memories of VE Day May 8th 1945: Sandra 

We lived in a terrace house in Staveley. (Long gone)There were two long rows with space down the middle The air raid shelter was at the top of the centre and this party was in front of that The bunting was fastened to the shelter

I remember more about the war than this actual day I helped make buntings we made these at school as well as home. I remember the excitement of the day .My first party and being allowed to stay up and sing.

Sandra is in this photo somewhere!  Can you find her?  ‘Cos she isn’t sure!

My memories of VE Day May 8th 1945: Pat 

I do remember that we had a small bonfire just outside the front garden , on the piece of wasteland that ended the cul-de-sac where we were living.

It was a bit of a non-event for me, who remembered virtually nothing from before the war, so had no idea of life without a war! Though I was pleased that we were the winners.

I did have some scary ideas about the alternative to that, but apart from that it was ???


The Family History Group spend a lot of time & energy researching into their dim & distant past forgetting sometimes, perhaps, that there is a much ‘closer to home’ past to be explored.  With this in mind some of the group would like to share with you on this VE Day 75 celebration on May 8th 2020 a little of their past history.  Please click onto the link Family History Group Commemorate VE Day 75 (below) and enjoy.  Pam



World War 2 Goodies that could have been served at the VE Day Street Parties, courtesy of the Love of Food Group.

Rock cakes, from the Marguerite Cookbook, Eggless sponge cake, Eggless sponge enhanced with jam and cream! Oat biscuits out of the wartime recipe book, they are a bit dry but would be ok with cheese. 

Afternoon Tea Loaves, Cherry Loaf and throw it together mince pies, sausage and tomato pie, carrot scones.


Churchill Trivia!?

Churchill and Mrs Landermare

Mrs Landemare cooked for the Churchill family from 1939 throughout the duration of the war, until she retired in 1954.

During the war period, meals were often created using the most basic of ingredients as part of the rationing era.

According to Mrs Landemare, Churchill was an ‘incredibly fussy eater’ but she was often able to produce something delicious that satisfied his appetite for ‘simple’ British food.

Such was the impact of her cooking, on VE night Churchill actually thanked Mrs Landemare for her efforts by saying that he ‘could not have managed throughout the war without her cooking’.

Taken from a Blog from Vehicles for Veterans dated 8th May 2016

A few facts about WW2

• 70 million people fought in WWII. The Soviet Union lost 7.5 million soldiers, the most of any country involved in the war. Other major players in the Allied powers saw massive casualties as well. The U.S. lost 400,000, Great Britain lost 330,000, and China lost 2.2 million. Among the Axis powers, the German army saw 3.5 million casualties, Italy lost 77,000 and Japan lost 1.2 million.
• As Winston Churchill announced the end of the war in London, crowds filled the streets from Trafalgar Square up to Buckingham Palace. Princess Margaret and her sister Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth II, were among the crowd taking part in the celebrations.
• In the U.S., President Harry Truman was celebrating his birthday on V-E Day. He dedicated the victory to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who died one month before the end of the war. Roosevelt helped create the alliance between Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S., which made it possible to defeat Nazi Germany.
• While the war was coming to an end, survivors of the concentration camps continued to suffer. When they returned home and found their former lives destroyed and their communities gone forever. Many survivors lost their entire families and had no home to return to.
• V-E Day marks the official end of WWII in Europe, but small pockets of fighting still continued into the next day. German and Soviet forces confronted each other in Silesia on May 9. The Soviets lost 600 more soldiers before the Germans finally laid down their arms.
• The Germans’ surrender marked the end of WWII in Europe, but Japan didn’t surrender until Aug. 15, 1945. Their surrender became official on Sept. 2, 1945, which is now celebrated as Victory over Japan Day or V-J Day.
• Technically, WWII still hasn’t ended due to the fact that Russia and Japan never signed a peace treaty to end the Kuril Island dispute. The Kuril Islands are situated in a chain of islands between Russia and Japan. Historically, Japan had ownership of the islands, but Russia took control during WWII. Neither side has ever agreed to sign papers settling the territorial dispute.
• Some Japanese soldiers never got the message that the war was over, including Hiroo Onoda, who was stationed in the Philippines. He hid out, fully armed and ready for battle, until 1974 when he was discovered. Onoda refused to surrender until his commanding officer flew to the island and convinced him to.

Our Photo Gallery

A series of war time weddings

Memorial to Canadian Airmen at Creswell Crags,  Colin Clayton, on the left, based in the Shetlands (Enid’s Uncle)

Top Model Village, Creswell, VE Day 1945

Top Model Children Prior to VE Day party

a few Photographs from a book produced by Creswell Residents

The War Medal, the Defence Medal, Royal British Legion pin badges and the Womens’ Civil Defence badge. The box in which the medals were delivered by the GPO.



Flowers for Fun

in red, white and blue

arranged with love and care by Chair, Bev.

Please note blue bells and cornflowers are from the garden, not from the wild.


    This page has been produced by the members of Bolsover District University of the Third Age. Bev and Geoff want to say a huge thank you to everyone for their contributions, we hope you have enjoyed reading and browsing the page. We have enjoyed reading the contributions as they came in and battling with the technology to construct this page. Thank you, we very much enjoyed the task. 

    Bev and Geoff