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Memories Of The Summer 1945, When Peace Finally Came

Published on: 30 Jun, 2015
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2015

Roger Edwards grew up in Byrefield Road, Rydes Hill, Guildford. Here he recalls the summer of 1945, 70 years ago.

Sometime in the summer of 1945 I felt ill standing in an afternoon assembly at school. I had a raging headache and I staggered home only to find that my mum was out.

The young Roger Edwards.

The young Roger Edwards.

I lay on the wooden bench in the shed and remembered nothing else until I woke up in bed in a very hot sweat. I was treated for pneumonia by a Hungarian, Jewish doctor by the name of Rosenberg who had a surgery at the top of Woodbridge Hill. He did a good job wrapping me in hot poultices. On recovery my parents bought me a second-hand cowboy suit.

I recall asking my mother what it would be like when the war ended. She said that we would stick flags out of the windows and have parties in the streets and bonfires on the common.

The house Roger lived in with his parents at 61 Byrefield Road, pictured in about 1935.

The house Roger lived in with his parents at 61 Byrefield Road, pictured in about 1935.

Sure enough come VE Day in May 1945 all these events were set in motion. There was a big street party in Byrefield Road. Everybody contributed in some way. I remember the boys had to run a doll’s pram race and I won!

I was given a huge bar of chocolate that someone had donated from their ration. It was so tempting. I scoffed the lot. Later I suffered.

There was dancing in the street and a big bonfire on the common. An effigy of Hitler was consumed in the flames. There were fireworks, but they were so carelessly thrown around. Everybody went mad.

It was the same on VJ Day in August. When we heard of the dropping of the atomic bombs and Japan’s surrender everybody rejoiced. At that time I think few realised that we had entered a new age with an awesome weapon.

I had one especially frightening experience at the time of victory celebrations. My parents had warned me against ‘wicked men’ that I could meet on the common.

The warning was very vague. I had no idea what wicked men did.

One Sunday I was about a hundred yards ahead of my parents walking the common land when suddenly a man appeared from behind the bushes with a huge scythe. I was terrified. Was this a wicked man?  I ran screaming to my parents. The man was in fact cutting material for the victory bonfire!

School pupils from Stoughton form a victory V sign at the end of the Second World War.

School pupils from Stoughton form a victory V at the end of the Second World War.

In September 1945 I went from Stoughton infants to the junior school. At the close of that year I remember the knocking down of the shelters in the playground, which caused great distraction. Mr Hardy, the headteacher, divided the school into four houses. Montgomery, Tedder, Alexander and Mountbatten.

All the flags were taken in. No more street parties and continual shortages. The years of postwar austerity began. Rather an anti-climax.

There was a huge brick water tank at the top of the common between Sheepfold Road and Byrefield Road, for use by the fire brigade in the event of a bombing incident.

It was fenced  in with barbed wire with a notice warning people not to throw things in the tank as it would impede the operations of the firemen.

Despite this warning all kinds of rubbish was thrown in. It became what we would call today a fly tip.

I breached the fence with my pals and collected newts in a jam jar. When the tank was finally drained its less useful contents were revealed: dead cats, bricks, lumps of concrete, old furniture, condoms, tin cans and milk bottles. The list could go on…

Between Sheepfold Road and Byrefield Road opposite the common was the huge base of a tree that had been cut down, affectionately known by us kids as ‘the log’.

It was our HQ where all sorts of child-orientated operations were planned including a plot to stay out beyond 7pm.

We hid in the hedges and saw our distraught parents walking or riding their bicycles past our hideout in their quests to find us.

Eventually we emerged well beyond 8pm and each one of us experienced a  good whacking from our fathers.

I well remember trying to sit down in order to avoid my dad’s stick on my bottom, but he yanked me up and robustly applied the punishment. Then I could not sit down even if I had wanted to!

Field Marchall Bernard Mongomerie strides out from Stoughton Barracks towards headmaster Mr Hardy, while children look on.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery strides out from Stoughton Barracks towards headmaster Mr Hardy, while children look on.

Monty visited Stoughton Barracks shortly after the war. Pupils from Stoughton Junior School trooped up to the entrance.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery moved towards Mr Hardy the head and shock hands. Mr Hardy responded with the words: “Delighted to meet you General.”

Later in school I told Mr Hardy that he was, in fact, a field marshal. My observation was not very will received. I expect he thought I was a clever little so and so.

My mum said that now the war was ended I could have a cat. Enter Monty, a slinky black kitten who became part of the family until his demise in 1956.

I recall at sometime at the end of the war talking to some German prisoners of war working on the land. They gave us some baked potatoes in their jackets and were really very friendly.

We even talked about the war. It was not like the Fawlty Towers phrase of “Don’t mention the war!”

We were a liitle miffed. We had fought the Germans from 1939 to 1945 and these were nice guys.

Looking back I can now discern that they were all victims of an obscene regime who missed their families and their children. What a horrible war it was, but at the time for my pals and myself it was more an adventure not really thinking about the lives that at been devastated and snatched away.

Street party in Byrefield Road in 1945 that we previously published. Roger Edwards has suggested names of some of those featured. See below.

Photo of a street party in Byrefield Road, 1945, that we previously published. Roger Edwards has suggested the names of some of those featured. See below.

In The Guildford Dragon NEWS’ feature on VE Day, published in May, there is a picture that was taken in Byrefield Road. It was sent in by John Lomas. I think I can identify some of the people pictured in it.

The man to the left of the picture maybe Major Bert Pearce (retired) of the Northumberland Fusiliers. I think it is him because his jacket may be displaying medals.

Major Pearce was present at the battle of Omdurman in 1898 and he was wounded at the Battle of Modder River in the Boer War of 1899. He was lying in the grass on a river bank when he was smothered by ants. He had to raise himself and sustained a bullet in the chest from a Boer sniper.

He of course survived and continued to serve in the regiment in all ranks up to major. He was wounded in the First World War and I believe he finished as OC at the depot of his regiment.

He once showed me all his wounds in his chest, legs and arms. He was also gassed and suffered as a result thereafter. He lived two doors away from us in Byrefield Road.

As a lad I was fascinated by his army stories.

The man to the right I think is my dad, Frederick Edwards, of 61, Byrefield Road. The little girl being held may be Janice Tidy.

See previous story written by Roger Edwards of his memories of Stoughton.

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Responses to Memories Of The Summer 1945, When Peace Finally Came

  1. John Lomas Reply

    June 30, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Roger, I am glad that you have ID’d people in my picture, if you don’t have a similar one I can let you have a scan (David has my email address), do you by any chance, remember if there were two parties VE and VJ or do you think the race in my picture was the same day as your doll’s pram race?

  2. Roger Edwards Reply

    June 30, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    There were indeed both a VE and VJ Day party in Byrefield Road. The events in both were similar.

    After 70 years I cannot identify one from another despite my otherwise long memory.

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