VE Day 50th Anniversary Party, 1995

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In early 1995, planning for a street party got under way, led by the enthusiasm of Maxine Knight. An application was made to the local Highways Department to close Shackleford Road outside the Village Hall, and leaflets were distributed to all houses in the local community, encouraging participation. The following account of the party appeared in the Parish Magazine.

A few anxious days of doubtful weather forecasts were dispelled, when Monday 8th May dawned with bright sunshine, a fresh breeze and puffy clouds.

The day started with the setting up of bunting, tents, balloons, tables and a sound system for taped 40’s music. A steady flow of precious memorabilia arrived for the display inside the Village Hall, which was equipped with sound effects and wartime news video.

At 2.30 p.m. families were soon assembling, carrying plates of sandwiches – spam, corned beef, paste, marmite and many more – colourful jam tarts, rock cakes and iced buns, jellies and blancmanges. The urns were already bubbling and the tea tent was soon filling mugs – yes, most people remembered to bring one!

Dick Hazeu welcomed everyone, and then David Swinburn gave a fascinating resume of events leading up to the long-awaited declaration of the end of hostilities in 1945. Freddie Hill had set up his wind-up gramophone with records of the period, and an interesting display of local photos. We were presently joined by Alan Briant with his accordion, who played many familiar favourites of the era for a spot of community singing.

All the while, there was a steady flow of visitors to the Village Hall display – so many remarkable fragments of events all those years ago: Sandy Brigstocke’s touching letters home to his Mum; Ernest Instone’s letter from Buckingham Palace signed by the King; Desmond Hignett’s collection of photos, ration books, ID cards; Sally Bolton’s display of posters used by her father to instruct in the use of gas masks; a letter, which must have brought great relief, confirming Gilbert Cole’s safe return from Dunkirk; the dramatic photographs of David Swinburn’s bombed childhood home, and his huge collection of scrap books, magazines and albums; and all sorts of pictures of a handsome young Jim Hancock!

The ladies’ efforts were well represented – Iris Cole, Vida Hignett, Greenie Fuller and Dorothy Humphries, and the work “back home” by Reg Gray in the Home Guard, and the Stovold and Buer families. Shackleford’s wartime involvement with the Canadian Army was well documented by Peter Davis, with memories of rodeo displays on Shackleford Heath. To echo this particular theme, Alan Johnston brought his 40’s Canadian Army Jeep to the Party.

Estimates of how many people attended the party ranged from 200-300; the scene was certainly a crowded and happy one. I’m sure we will all remember the striking uniformed figure of Sandy Brigstocke; others came in less formal garb – plenty of dungarees, some khaki, a few headscarves and the odd land-army girl!

Whilst the children drifted down to play on the field at Norney Farm, talk and reminiscing flowed, and memories of wartime in Shackleford and much further afield were recalled.

All those who helped with the Event’s arrangement had a happy and rewarding day and one that will be long remembered – and just one special thank you to Maxine Knight, whose determination that there would be a Shackleford VE Day party was so unwavering that she engaged the accordionist a year ago!

Finally, donations to the bucket-collection raised over £200, which were forwarded to services charities.

Jane Bunnett – 9th May 1995