Seventy years ago to the day, Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) was celebrated on May 8, 1945, to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender to end World War Two.
On April 30, Adolf Hitler committed suicide during the Battle of Berlin. Germany’s surrender was authorised by his successor, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz. The act of military surrender was signed on May 7 in Reims, France, and on May 8 in Berlin.
Millions of people celebrated in the streets of Britain, and Portadown town centre was packed with revellers. Local architect Mervyn Heatley took the pictures of the celebrations, and the Portadown News reported the happy occasion.
We are grateful to local historian Jim Lyttle for providing us with the information. The report is a follows -
Portadown News Saturday May 12. 1945 -
‘Portadown in common with every town and village throughout Northern Ireland joined to the fullest possible extent in the universal rejoicings of Tuesday, VE Day, to mark the termination of warfare on the Continent of Europe.
‘On Monday the feeling of expectancy was at fever pitch and there were few who missed hearing the BBC news bulletins throughout the morning and early afternoon, hoping that Mr. Churchill would give the long awaited signal that VE Day had come. When at last came the announcement that Mr. Churchill would speak at 3.00 p.m. on Tuesday, it is only true to say that to an extent there were signs of disappointment, but these did not take long to disappear.
‘Soon the streets were filled with eager crowds, supplemented throughout the late evening by large reinforcements of all ages from the country districts, and it was soon evident that the restraint which had marked our expectancy would be broken. Towards nightfall the crowds were in fine form and dancing and games were the order of the night. Young people and the children too left the congested pavements and joined the amusements on the main thoroughfare from St. Mark’s Parish Church down to Bridge Street.
‘Not least happy were the Belgian soldiers who had come into town to give vent to their joy at the defeat of the German nation and the liberation of their homeland. With the best good humour and the assistance of admirers they united with the swirling masses of jubilant people and they had a merry time. Some of them had secured Belgium flags and with these they lead processions here and there, up and down.
‘And then on Tuesday VE-Day had come. Joy and gladness were plainly written on the face of everyone who came out of doors. The town was in festive mood, a blaze of colour. In the main streets, in the little streets and from public buildings the flags of the Allies were displayed and bunting which we thought impossible to secure was floating in the breeze at every point. One of the first places decorated was Fowler’s Entry, whose inhabitants were prepared for VE-Day long before the week-end.
‘In the morning several thousand people attended the open-air service at the War Memorial, and later were entertained by bands from town and country. Drumming parties also participated. In the evening Services of Thanksgiving were held in Protestant Churches of the town. Towards dusk bonfires were blazing at a number of points and rockets were exploding in all directions.
‘Local Roman Catholic communities had their premises gaily bedecked with bunting and the flags of the Allied Nations during the celebrations. In Marley Street, for example, a huge Union Jack hung right across the centre of the roadway, while a blood stained ensign brought home from Palestine by one of the many men from the vicinity serving in H.M Forces. St. Patrick’s Hall in Thomas Street was also decorated inside and outside, while St. Patrick’s Recreation Club’s premises in Thomas St. were also gaily adorned.’
Interesting recent email from Fernand Dupuis, who was in Portadown on V-E Day:
‘As you can see, even in Belgium, there are people interested by your (Jim Lylle’s) photos. Having been in Ulster in 1945 (I was in Gilford) with the Belgian Army, I was fond of spending my free time in Portadown going to the movies or to dance at the Plaza and the Savoy. So imagine the pleasure I had to see your web site. (note that since 1945 I came back nine times to Ulster where I still have very good friends)
We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,
But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do,
‘Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.