Menu MSSU

Project WWII: Voices of the Greatest Generation

Vets celebrate Victory Europe

by Dylan Welker

Several vets in England took up their  instruments and played for crowds  at the pubs.
Several vets in England took up their
instruments and played for crowds
at the pubs.
Just outside a pub on Florence road,  party goers enjoy some food and drink.
Just outside a pub on Florence road,
party goers enjoy some food and drink.

The commemoration of Victory Europe, VE, and Victory Japan, VJ, in Portsmouth, England involved a weekend of events. The celebration was the result of several months of planning.

"I have been managing the VE-VJ 60th project," said Michael Gunton, manager of the VE-VJ celebration in Portsmouth. "I have been working on it about nine months. July 10 was the date chosen by the government to celebrate victory in Europe and victory over Japan, both those dates as one date, because VJ day often gets forgotten throughout the year."

Gunton organized memory sessions with the citizens of Portsmouth who lived through the war years. The focus of the event was to educate the public and reflect on the events that took place 60 years ago.

"We did memory sessions we had two sessions, one in the north of the city and one in the central library," Gunton said. Where people could come along and talk about their experience of being in Portsmouth during the war."

The city government set 100,000£ just for this event. The city not only wanted to give honor to the veterans but all those who survived the war years.

"I suppose it is important because the veterans are dying and so forth, and we should carry on the memory," Gunton said. "We thought we wanted to do something to give value to the experience of all the people of Portsmouth during war whether they were in the services, civilians or whether they were children, because Portsmouth went through a lot."

On July 9, the city had several block parties. These consisted of music, beer and laughter, and some crazy characters as well.

A man in drag celebrates  during a street party on  Florence Road in  Portsmouth, England.
A man in drag celebrates
during a street party on
Florence Road in
Portsmouth, England.

Several pictures from the war period were in a local park adjacent to Guildhall. The stories that were received at the memory sessions were written next to the photos. One of the boards read as follows:

"We would be saddled with the responsibility of picking up the corpses off the street. Having some of those experiences I had, I have never cried since."

"The pictures in Victoria Park, they will be there throughout the summer, with quotes by people," Gunton said.

During the war years Portsmouth was often bombed by the Germans, it was the launching point for the invasion on D-day, and Eisenhower's headquarters during the invasion of Normandy. The daily lives of Portsmouth citizens were changed by the war.

Many of the children in Portsmouth were sent away to cities further inland for their own safety due to the fear of attack from the Germans and the heavy bombardment that fell on the city during the early years of the war.

On July 10, a celebration was held in Victoria Park that ended in the evening with a screening of war-time images and accounts at Guildhall in the center of the port city.

"To celebrate and to inform really this is what it was like to be in Portsmouth during the war," Gunton said.

The conclusion of the event on the evening of July 10 was a projection of images directly on Guildhall. The crowd sang along to classics from the 40s as the images scrolled across the facade of the great hall.

©