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Documents: Gardening From: Gardening From Scotland:

Victory Day in London 1945
by Patrick Vickery
by Patrick Vickery

email: Aldieburnplants@aol.com

Patrick Vickery lives in the Scottish Highlands and runs a small hardy perennial nursery (part-time). Patrick is also a part-time garden writer, and part-time special needs teacher.

Married to Liz, they have three children, two goats, two dogs, an assortment of small animals, and lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world.

Patrick gardens using a raised bed system and all, of course, chemically free - a chemical free zone!
Visit his blog
His first book was published in January 2002 by Capall Bann Publishers, UK:-
"In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden" (ISBN: 186163 1480)

Also visit his website at www.patrickvickery.com


June 30, 2013

My father, Michael Vickery, visited Ross-shire in the north of Scotland regularly and during a particularly enjoyable barbeque on the shores of the Cromarty Firth remarked “Who needs the French Riviera when you have this?”. He often commented on the friendly nature of the local inhabitants.

Apart from immediate family, there was another connection to the area. His Uncle (Samuel Vickery), a naval surgeon with HMS Thalia, died in Invergordon in July 1919, a victim of Spanish Flu, and is buried in Cromarty.

In 1945 Michael wrote a letter to his mother describing the victory celebrations in London at the end of World War Two. It has particular poignancy as his older brother, George, died during the war. I found it a fascinating eye witness account by a 19-year-old. I hope you do, too.

Monday May 7th 1945 Mummy

It’s all over . . . London’s been celebrating like a city gone mad. I knew it was over just before 4 o’clock . . . before I knew where I was I found myself engulfed in the most enormous crowd in Whitehall. Churchill was expected to speak from the Parliament end of Whitehall, from the Ministry of Health Balcony. We all waited, thousands of us . . . The papers estimate it at 50,000 people waiting for Churchill to appear. At 7 o’clock we were told it wasn’t coming off. Victory day was to be Tuesday, and so I went off for supper.

Tuesday May 8th 1945 At 2 o’clock we joined the crowd in Whitehall and Parliament Square. We managed to squeeze our way as far as possible opposite the Balcony. It really was a most amazing sight. Thousands upon thousands of people, all squashed up like sardines. The St Johns Ambulance Brigade began to have a busy time. It was from there that I heard Churchill’s first speech. Much to everyone’s disappointment Churchill did not broadcast from the Balcony but from 10 Downing Street. We heard the broadcast over the loud speakers. The cheering and excitement was terrific. Nearly everyone was carrying flags, wearing paper hats, or something of the sort. London is just a mass of flags, flags and more flags.

People were beginning to wonder what next. Then along came Churchill in an open car. The crowd went mad with cheering. His car was mobbed.

Churchill drove to the Houses of Parliament. I managed to climb on a wall and have a grandstand view. The police, most of them mounted, managed to get him through the gates of the Houses of Parliament. At about 3.50pm Parliament paraded to St Margaret’s Church for a Thanksgiving service, the Speaker leading in all his robes, followed by Churchill, all of the Cabinet and the Commons. I had a grand view. They had a service at St Margaret’s. You could hear it from outside. Then they all paraded back to Parliament. I was in the front row of the crowd, and Churchill was within three feet of me.

The next time I saw Churchill was when he finally left the House of Commons The crowd was thick . . . the cheers showed what people thought of him. Popularity is not a word strong enough to describe it. I saw Churchill once more. The crowd collected outside the Ministry of Health and shouted for Churchill. He came onto the Balcony with all the Cabinet - Bevan, Morrison, the Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Cunningham, Air Marshall Portal, General Sir Alan Brooke, and many others I didn’t recognise. Churchill waved his hat and was typically like Churchill! After yells of ‘speech’ he spoke for a few minutes. The cheers he got must have been heard miles away. Imagine 50,000 people cheering for all they are worth and you get some idea of what it was like. Bevin finished the proceedings by calling for three cheers for victory.

After supper we made our way to Buckingham Palace. The squash was worse than that of the afternoon. People fainted left and right. The crowd was not only around the Palace but was solid up the Mall to Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. I heard the King’s Speech at 9pm. It was relayed over loud speakers. After it was over there were continuous yells of “We want the King”. At 9.30pm he came out with the Queen, Princess Margaret and Elizabeth. The King in naval uniform, the Queen in white, Elizabeth in ATS uniform.

The crowd went wild with cheering. I got a good view and also spent some of the time lifting people who were too small so that they could see.

After that we made our way to Trafalgar Square. Everyone had gone absolutely wild. Cars had a bad time - they were besieged, stopped and soon became a swarming mass of people. Fireworks were going off in a rather dangerous fashion. I greatly admired the police. Hundreds were dancing in circles around them. It was an amazing sight. Like an enormous Christmas party. All London was packed. There were no roads left, just like a swarming mass of ants. It was a wild scene.

We finished the night by seeing all the floodlighting. Some of it was lovely, especially the Houses of Parliament. There were Bonfires everywhere. The searchlight display was from 11.45 to 12.15 and lit up Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, St Martin’s, Ministry of Health, St Pauls and hundreds of other places. I eventually got to bed just after 1 o’clock. I don’t suppose I shall see such scenes again.

I have tried to tell you what it was all like, but I’m afraid it has been a bad description. I hope you are alright at home?

With love

Michael

(Michael died peacefully in November 2012, aged 87)

Copyright Patrick Vickery 2013

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