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Victory in Europe Day

East Street on VE Day

8th May 1945, was a day fixed in the memory of many who witnessed it. It saw an end to the almost six years of war that had cost the lives of millions, had ripped families apart, destroyed homes, businesses and brought much suffering to many countries worldwide.

In towns and cities across the country millions of people celebrated Germany's surrender, marking the occasion with street parties, dancing and singing. It was by no means the end of the conflict however as the war against Japan continued for another three months, and the impact of the Second World War continued to be felt for many years to come.

Locally, the Chichester and Southdown Observer of 12th May 1945 reported on the day's events in Chichester which are summarised below:

Cicestrians awaited as eagerly as anybody the official announcement that VE day had arrived. Some months previously the Mayor (Alderman Stride) asked the City Council to set up a committee to make arrangements where possible to assist celebrations.

Anticipation grew the weeks leading up to the 8th May, so much so that some residents began hanging out flags the weekend before. On the Monday, the Germans announced their surrender and with immediate effect arrangements were made for suspending streamers across the main streets.

One after another official proprietors of businesses and houses began decorating their premises. As the evening advanced the city became a blaze of colour.

When VE day broke, it was an excellent May morning. The weather held fine throughout, and it is safe to say that it is many a long day since Chichester witnessed such scenes of carefree happiness as the day brought forth.

In the early hour's citizens were busy putting finishing touches to decorations, and there was much activity at the food shops during the hours arranged for them to be open. After the dinner hour, people began to throng the street and by 3pm a great crowd surrounded the city cross to hear the re-laying loud speaker of Mr Winston Churchill's now historic VE Day Speech with its imposing "Advance Britannia" finale.

Afterwards there was much spontaneous fun, with music from a radio car which induced impromptu dancing.

Soon after 6pm, the city band which has rendered yeoman service during the festivities, marched through East Street to the Cross playing "Tipperary". They had a gay crowd as escort, some of whom sang the famous refrain with gusto as they approached the heart of the city. There the band played selections, and there was half an hour of merry pealing by the Cathedral ringers as the hour allotted for the Church service, 7pm approached.

The assembly around the cross became denser and denser, growing during the evening until it was positively prodigious.

The scenes were similar across the rest of the city, the District and indeed the entire county. The photographs and items below highlight some of the many celebrations that took place locally on VE day and the days following.