“At last” was the general opinion in Romsey, according to the Romsey Advertiser, when Victory in Europe finally arrived. Although it was known that peace was imminent, it could not be declared until Germany had formally surrendered. Finally it was stated that Tuesday May 8th was the day when peace in Europe would break out. Britain was granted two days national holiday in which to celebrate.

In Romsey, events took place in two forms. There were official events and informal street events.

The official start of the proceedings started with an announcement by the mayor of the end of the war in Europe. He stood on a stage outside the town hall and his words were amplified through loud-speakers specially erected in the Market Place. The whole town was decorated with flags and bunting to celebrate, and some houses were illuminated with coloured electric lights, including coloured lights on Dr Johnson’s home, Linden House in The Hundred, and the Plaza cinema with three large arc lamps. After years of blackout, this was a welcome change.

There were informal church services held on the evening of May 8th – the formal ones took place on the following Sunday. The church at St Luke’s Hospital, attached to the workhouse, held a service for inmates during the afternoon. After the Sunday service in the Abbey there was a march past in the Market Place of all the civil defence and military units who taken part.

Most streets or communities in Romsey arranged their own parties. These included lavish teas – difficult with rationing – games, gifts to children, music, dancing and bonfires on which effigies of Hitler were burnt. The Fire Brigade organised two very large bonfires at their site in Latimer Street.

For the first time since war had been declared, the abbey bells were rung throughout the day. People danced to music played through the loudspeakers in the Market Place, and a dance filled the Crosfield Hall to capacity in the evening. On May 9th a bowling match took place in the Memorial Park although the state of the green left much to be desired.

Tributes were paid to the fallen and the continuing war in the Far East was remembered. Rationing was to continue for several years, but the first newly-released prisoners of war arrived home to Romsey. At last, after five years, people could sleep soundly and undisturbed in their beds at night and street lights could be lit again.

Phoebe Merrick