How Lancastrians marked the end of five years of war

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire
VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire
Share this article
0
Have your say

Three months after VE Day the announcement of the Japanese surrender finally brought to a close the final hostilities of the Second World War.

The news saw jubilant scenes throughout the nation and in Lancashire flocked into the streets in celebration.

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

Victory was celebrated and recorded by the Lancashire Daily Post in Preston, Lancaster, Chorley and Blackpool.

Soon after the news was broadcast, large crowds gathered in Preston’s Market Square, where the Mayor Councillor JE Gee made a special announcement.

Everyone young and old turned out.

Several women had stopped only to throw a coat over their night attire and they did not even bother to take out their curlers.

We can now rejoice that the misery and suffering of our gallant lads, many of them men from our own town, in Japanese prisons, will soon be over

The celebrations continued as people exclaimed “The war’s over”, “it’s peace at last”, “you’ll miss your beauty sleep, to­night”, “thank God, for the lads”.

Servicemen and civilians sang until they were hoarse.

The atmosphere was lively and warm throughout Preston as people danced to favourite songs like “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Tree”, “The Okey Cokey”, “Boomps­a­Daisy”.

Some women even caused a brief scandal among the activity as the Lancashire Daily Post reported: “Two ATS girls, billeted in Preston, caused considerable amusement as they swung down Fishergate” still dressed in their pyjama trousers!

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

The climax came about 1.45am when the crowd formed a procession, headed by a man in a car beating a drum.

They walked, arms linked, stretching across the street down Church Street towards Ribbleton Lane.

In Chorley, a pyjama parade was organised and held in a true, carefree spirit. People were dressed in their nighties and pyjamas and paraded throughout Chorley and Leyland shortly after the peace announcement.

Many people scarcely bothered to dress in their eagerness to join in the celebrations and those who had gone to bed were awakened by processions headed by impromptu bands. Hands were joined and a circle of dancing, singing people was formed right round the Town Hall.

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

VJ Day celebrations in Lancashire

Youths with bugles and drums played music, and the explosions of fireworks mingled with the general noise.

Similar festivities continued in Leyland as they celebrated the news, despite the absence of street lighting, which was made up for by bonfires in the streets.

Even the night shift workers joined in the celebrations who were attracted to the gates by a band composed of people playing pig­ bin lids.

Preston’s own Avenham Park held afternoon VJ­ Day events the following day, which “catered primarily for the children thanks to the Preston Co­operative Society”.

The crowd was estimated at more than 12,000 people.

Blackpool was full of life, where holiday makers and residents continued their VJ­ Day celebrations, with a carnival procession being held through the town.

Bonfires were still blazing on the sands in the early hours, and there were amazing promenade crowd scenes until nearly 2am.

In Blackpool’s Talbot Square, sailors climbed the flag poles and on to the roofs of houses, cheered by a crowd of 10,000. Through Accrington, a torchlight procession made an imposing display where 200 “flambeaux bearers” marched up the tree-­lined Avenue Parade. Ten thousand people in Burnley watched and took part in street dancing led by the Mayor and Mayoress Alderman and Mrs T P Taylor in front of the flood­lit Town Hall.

Lancaster’s celebrations took place in Dalton Square where crowds gathered to hear a brief speech from the Mayor, followed by a relayed broadcast of the King’s speech at the Town Hall.

Later, the mood continued with dancing in the square to the music of the Inniskilling Fusillers Drum and Fife Band and to amplified gramophone records through to the early hours of the morning. Garstang children were provided with games and there was a free dance for adults at the Liberal Club in the evening. The town was well­ decorated with flags and buntings and had a similar patriotic display in the surrounding villages while the people of Scorton held a bonfire in the village square.

Though we must not forget those who had family members and close friends who were still away from home, or had lost their lives. When they heard the news, many Preston women with relatives still in the Far East wept unashamedly. Among the thronging crowds of people in high spirits, there were those who were grieving for their losses.

“We can now rejoice that the misery and suffering of our gallant lads, many of them men from our own town, in Japanese prisons, will soon be over”.