VE Day celebrations: a day off school!
“What does an ice cream have to do with the outbreak of the second world war? Well I will tell you! It was a Sunday morning and I was a six-year-old boy, looking forward to an ice cream from the ice cream man who rode a three-wheeled bicycle. My Father had given me some pennies to buy one and just before he arrived the air raid sirens went off, war had begun and there was no ice cream for me.
My Father’s job was transferred from Sunderland to London so we moved to Highgate and rented a house. In 1940 the Germans started bombing London and school time for me was spent in and out of the air raid shelters. I took every opportunity to watch the aeroplanes chasing each other and sometimes one would fall from the sky. To me it was just a game and I did not realise the danger. I slept in the local underground station at night with the trains thundering past. One day, when my Mother and I were walking along Oxford Street, an unexploded bomb went off, which sent masonry flying everywhere. It was an occasion I will never forget.
Shortly after I started at Reigate Grammar School, the flying bombs were exploding around Reigate and it was more lessons in the air raid shelters – with the aid of torches.
When VE Day arrived, it meant a day off school – great! Then it was a street party in Grovehill Road, Redhill. The street was full of tables and chairs, from one end to the other, and there was lots of food saved up for the occasion. My friends and I took advantage and tucked in. There were strings of bunting and flags everywhere and you could sense the relief that people were enjoying after years of hardship.
In the evening, my Father took me to London to see the celebrations there. The atmosphere was fantastic, with people singing and dancing and having a thoroughly good time. Some were sitting on top of lamp posts and on the lions in Trafalgar Square. Then it was back home ready for school again in the morning!
One chapter of my life had ended and another had begun. There have been many chapters in my life and it is the way I have of overcoming the difficult times and looking to the future.”
Derek Wright (RGS 1944-1949)