VJ Day: When West Norfolk residents rejoiced
On the morning of Tuesday, August 14, 1945 – five days after the USA had dropped its second atom bomb, this time on Nagasaki – the Japanese cabinet met and decided to accept the Allied surrender terms.
At midnight, the Prime Minister, Mr Attlee, announced Japan’s unconditional surrender and the Second World War was finally over.
The two following days were celebrated throughout the country as a national holiday, with residents in towns and villages in West Norfolk joining in the remarkable scenes of care-free rejoicing.
Lynn News and Advertiser editor, Dyker Thew, summed up the feelings of many when he wrote: “No words can fully express the deep feeling of thankfulness which fills the heart and mind of each of us in this memorable week.
“The men in the Forces, at home and overseas, see the sky brightening, but their task is not yet complete. There is still much to be done, both in Europe and the Far East. But to all intents and purposes the fighting seems finished.
“Their womenfolk at home can look forward at last with confidence to their safe homecoming. It may be months – in some cases longer – before husbands and brothers are out of uniform and back by the fireside. But they are on their way, and more rapidly than any of us dared to hope a week or so ago.
“In Lynn and West Norfolk our hearts go out at this time to the mothers, wives, relatives and friends of the prisoners in the Far East. They have been waiting patiently and anxiously for four-and-a-half long years for the good news of Victory in the Pacific.
“They have had only meagre news of their loved-ones who were captured at Singapore in January, 1941. Even now, alas, there will be some for whom the news, when it comes, will be sad news.
“But we hope and believe that the large majority of those West Norfolk men who have been captive in Japanese hands will return safe and – after a period of medical treatment and special diet – ready to take up the broken threads of their life in Civvy-street.”
It was party time in London on VJ Day, August 15th, 1945, with a huge crowd outside Buckingham Palace to cheer the royal family, while in Lynn thousands of people joined in special events held in the town.
The first, at 11am, was united service of Thanksgiving for Victory held at the Tuesday Market Place, with the Town Band playing before the service and accompanying the hymns.
On a platform erected in front of the Corn Hall, the Mayor, Mr O Jermyn, told the crowd: “This is a momentous day in the history of our country; this is an unforgettable day in our lives.
“The cruel war in the Far East has come to an end. Let us never forget the bravery, valour and heroism of all fighting men on land, on sea and in the air.
“Let us always remember with immense gratitude those men who have fallen in battle. Let us hope the prisoners-of-war will soon be relieved of all their miseries and return home in good numbers.
“Finally let us thank Almighty God for his goodness to us in this great deliverance.”
Later that evening, at 9.30pm, the Mayor had the honour of setting light the Corporation’s bonfire at The Walks recreation ground. A vast pile of old timber had been accumulated, copiously saturated with paraffin, to give it a good start after some rain.
The flames rose at times to almost 40ft above the pile of woodand a Lynn News and Advertiser journalist reported: “It was a bonfire that worthily upheld the best British traditions and did credit to Lynn – although a few pessimists were heard to mutter ‘We shall want that lot of firewood this winter’.”
Fireworks were also let off around the recreation ground and another attraction was the fair. Also on VJ night there was a public dance held at the Corn Hall attended by “a large and somewhat hilarious crowd which included a fair number of Servicemen and women. Most of the people were in high spirits and had caps in the national colours of red, white and blue ribbons.”
Music was provided by radiogram and loudspeakers.