Mrs Barron’s

Mrs Barron experienced VE Day not far from the gates of Chesterton Community College.

I was 11 at the time of VE Day, living behind St Luke’s Church on Stretten Avenue and a pupil at Milton Road School.
The main event on VE Day itself was a huge bonfire on Midsummer Common, where the November 5th bonfire takes place today. It was thrown together rapidly using furniture from bombed-out houses and anything else that could be found. Instead of a guy, an effigy of Adolf Hitler was placed on top.

American troops from Mildenhall, Lakenheath and other bases arrived on trucks and got out at the Four Lamps roundabout, many bringing instruments. They formed a big band on the common playing jazz, and Glenn Miller numbers such as ‘In The Mood’. People were dancing all over the common, though the cows were still there, as they had been throughout the war. There had also been wire strung over the commons to prevent landing by paratroopers, and anti-aircraft guns positioned on Midsummer Common and Jesus Green. We children used to climb on the guns until we were chased away by the soldiers.

The actual street party to celebrate VE Day took place some weeks later, because it took time to get enough food together. Rationing was very strict, and as troops started to come home the ration had to be shared with them as well. So it was a question of putting together what could be shared from the ration, or found on the black market.

Our party was on Stretten Avenue, at the crossroads with Akeman Street and Bateson Road. I don’t know where the tables came from, but they were covered in a mixture of tablecloths, American oil cloth and newspaper – we had to bring our own knives and forks and plates.

The food I remember is paste sandwiches and carrot cake. There were American troops there as well and they brought food from their base. Toilet facilities were very limited: the women could go into the houses, but the men emptied the sand from fire buckets and used them!