VE Day: Hackney pensioner remembers celebrating the end of an awful war
- Credit: Hackney Archives
Back on May 8 in 1945, peace street parties celebrating victory in Hackney we’re in full swing and set to carry on for weeks.
Seventy five years on, secretary of the Hackney Pensioners’ Convention and former journalist Nigel Gansell remembers the day the war ended in Europe and talks of his childhood experiences during the conflict, including growing up with rations in the East End where children played on bomb sites.
Nigel recalls his mother taking him to the gates of Buckingham Palace on Victory in Europe day (VE day).
“It was really atmospheric,” he said.
“The war was finally over – what a relief. London just had stacks of atmosphere - I mean it still has but it’s different.”
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The 80-year-old says he and his parents were lucky to survive the war. A few months before VE day a V-2 rocket hit the corner of the road where he and his family were living in Seven Kings, Ilford.
“I remember that night very well – we were bombed out,” he said.
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Afterwards Nigel was taken to a church hall beside Seven Kings station with other people draped in blankets. He wasn’t allowed back to his house for two weeks and was astonished by what he saw when he returned.
“The hole in the roof was just staggering and I looked at where my mum and dad had their bed and my cot was next to it.
The ceiling, just imagine, it all went down into a V-shape literally about five feet above them – they would have been killed,” he said.
Nigel said the missile’s force had even moved a wall “as if it was on a hinge” and blew an old-fashioned valve radio, which his father had built, out of a cabinet.
The former journalist who once worked for the East London Advertiser said: “He fixed the valves and in about two weeks managed to get it going again – of course my mum kept chickens and they were all destroyed.”
German V-2 rockets were all the more frightening because they were silent.
Nigel told the Gazette: “You had an Anderson shelter in your garden - all the people of London and elsewhere had one.
You went down into the earth but with a V-2 you never had a warning.”