Jewish Care clients and volunteers have been sharing their wartime memories around the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which is being marked in its homes with reminiscences, singalongs and screenings of a Dame Vera Lynn concert.
Harry Karker — a resident at the Clore Manor home in Hendon who served in the Royal Engineers — vividly recalls spending VE Day in Paris. “There were lots of drinks and chocolate and we went to a huge party in a hall. When I found my parents, they were dancing in the street.”
For Naomi Harris, a volunteer specialist worker at Shalvata, the therapeutic service at the charity’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre, an abiding memory of VE Day was her family moving into a new home in NW4, “my parents’ house having been bombed in Stepney.
“When the car drove up the road, flags hung from every house and lamp-post. People were congregating in the street and, aged five, I thought the celebration was that we were moving in!”
Miriam Fugler, 95, a member of the Brenner Centre in the East End, recalled her mother having a piano and her brother Tony being “fantastic with music” — he went on to co-write the Eurovision winner Save Your Kisses For Me for Brotherhood Of Man.
“On VE Day I remember me and my friends went to Trafalgar Square. There were soldiers there from every country and it was the best day of our lives.
“I love Churchill, he won the war for us. I am a great royalist too and I love Vera Lynn.”
Another member of the Brenner Centre, Freda Ziff, 87, said VE Day was also her mum’s birthday.
“The gas lanterns were on all night and people tore down the blackout blinds. There were loudspeakers in the street and everyone was shouting ‘war is over’.
“The celebrations carried on all weekend with parties in the streets, halls, churches and shuls. The women brought food and put tables out and decorated the streets.
“Mum had been a cook for weddings and she’d always say: ‘When the war is over, I’ll make you a great big party for your birthday.’ My birthday is on May 28 and she made me a big birthday party and somehow managed to find everything to bake a lovely cake so we could celebrate with all our friends and family.”
Retail industry entrepreneur and befriending volunteer Maurice Bennett recalled celebrating by going to the Bohemia Cinema in Finchley to see a film starring Marlene Dietrich.
“It was difficult to be too lavish because there was still rationing. People were just relieved it was over. I remember that the following year the celebrations were huge on VE Day and we really went to town.”