MEMORY LANE: How Buxton celebrated VE Day

The front page of the Buxton Herald, dated Friday May 11, 1945.
The front page of the Buxton Herald, dated Friday May 11, 1945.

Today (Friday) marks the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day).

News reached Buxton on the evening of Monday May 7, 1945, that Churchill would announce the end of the war at 3pm the following day, and that the King would broadcast at 9pm.

Focussing on the events of May 8, the Buxton Herald of Friday May 11 reported: “The streets were gaily bedecked with flags, bunting appearing if by magic. Crowds of people were on the streets. Stirring marches were played by the radio van. There was a Pioneer Band concert in the Crescent. Victory was in the air!

“Evening drew in, and the churches were crowded for the services of thanksgiving. Thousands of people gathered in the vicinity of the Slopes for an open-air dance to the music of the Pioneer Band.

“Young and old, those who could dance and those who couldn’t, went round the “floor”.

“At the Pavilion nearly 2,000 people crowded the ‘Victory Ball’, where the Home Guard Dance Band was playing.

“As darkness came the bonfires were lit. Round the town little dashes of red on the skyline indicated that people were celebrating in the traditional way. The biggest bonfire was on Fairfield Common and hundreds of people gathered round to see it lit. Probably 10,000 people saw it and stood in the red glow for a few minutes.

“Then, mysteriously, people produced fireworks. These almost forgotten luxuries added zest to the celebrations.

“All this time the radio vans were going to various parts of the town holding impromptu dances and relaying items of news. Everywhere people were dancing and singing. People danced at the street corners and sang round the bonfires.

“Gay lights twinkled. Illuminated ‘Vs’ stood out all over the town. Over the Town Hall, a huge ‘V’ illuminated the whole of the Market Place.

“The other side was floodlit, bathed in gold surmounted by turquoise, flags and bunting gaily fluttering aloft.

“On the gravel area in front of the Town Hall another dance was going on, by the light of the floodlights and to the music of the radio van. “Elsewhere on the Slopes more people were setting off fireworks. The Cenotaph, too, was floodlit.

“And, of course, some people were drunk - though Buxton was, for the most part, extremely sober.”

The celebrations continued into the early hours, and continued the following day although, the paper reported, it was a slightly quieter affair.

There was still singing and dancing, fireworks and bonfires, and those not content to doing their dancing in the streets joined the hundreds who attended a free dance at the Drill Hall.

The paper concluded its report by saying: “Yesterday morning (Thursday) Buxton went about its business. The war against Japan is still to be won. Men are still fighting and dying. We must go on.”

Large crowds also attended a thanksgiving event at the Pavilion Gardens on the first Sunday after VE Day, and witnessed a parade through the streets of Buxton.

The Herald said: “It is estimated that as many as three thousand people participated in or witnessed the ceremonial observances.”