Maud ‘Micky’ Mitchell remembers VE Day
“The news from Europe became increasingly exciting and then it happened. The Germans had capitulated; the war in Europe was over; Victory was ours – VE Day – May 8th. The quiet valley suddenly became alive with the roundelay of church bells ringing.
When was has been declared, we were told that all the church bells across the nation would remain silent. Should we hear them ring during wartime it would be as an indication that the enemy had invaded and landed on our shores. Fortunately that never came to pass and now after five long years the war was over and once more the air was filled with a joyful reassuring sound.
“Day off today, Mick,” Mr Edwards called when we had finished the morning milking and the churns were lifted onto the stand awaiting collection.
“But doan’ee be minded to run off home yet a while. Them Japs have ta be put in their play yet.” It really was a joyous day. Even the weather was wonderful.
“The powers that be” at the centre of social arrangements together with Lord and Lady Sidmouth had made plans for celebrations prior to the end of war treaty. The entire population attended a Service of Thanksgiving in St Mary’s Church in the afternoon and preparations had been made for a huge party in the Manor Room that evening. Between these events the Edwards family had me rested in anticipation of a hectic night ahead.
What a great party we had! The menfolk had built a huge bonfire at the top of Aller Hill; farmers donated barrel upon barrel of cider and the ladies of the parish really excelled themselves with their whole hams, cheeses, and scrumptious cakes. Devon Splits in abundance were heaped high with home-made jams and clotted cream and every surface of the Manor Room kitchen was filled to capacity.
We sang at full throttle that evening as we milked the cows – even the boss joined in with my crazy songs and then we went indoors to wash, change and pamper ourselves in readiness for the evenings activities.
The Sidmouth Arms was packed to the hilt when we arrived there shortly before nine o-clock. Drink was flowing fast and free and most people were already shiny-eyed and merry from over indulging. A radio blared out popular songs and we all joined in the singing. What a wonderful carefree day!
Eddie Selway was already in full swing as we entered the Manor Room and we danced the Lambeth Walk, the Palais Gilde and the Hokey-Cokey non stop until we were fit to drop. All the delicious food was free and hogshead replaced hogshead as people took their fill off cider. I must have become quite tipsey myself because the activities gradually became hazy. We were all hugging and kissing each other with delight and relief and the reveleries carried on all night – the party had no beginning and no ending.
It was precisely five o’clock the next morning when I rolled home. I simply went up to my room, changed into my dungarees and walked straight down to the courtyard, brought the cows in and started milking.”
Micky Mitchell, A Country War Memoirs of a Land Girl (Halsgrove, 2007), pp.92-93.