Readers' letters: Celebrating 75th anniversary of VE Day at home

The Garstang Town Council, together with other local organisations, had hoped to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on Friday, May 8, with events throughout the weekend.

By Clare Kelly
Wednesday, 29th April 2020, 5:00 pm
Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes his VE Day Broadcast to the world (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Winston Churchill makes his VE Day Broadcast to the world (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Obviously with all the Lockdown measures in force, that will no longer be possible although should the situation change in the next three to four months, it may be possible to arrange an event in August when the war in the Far East came to an end and all hostilities ceased.

In place of national events, ideas to help us celebrate at home have been devised and, if you wish to join in, remembering that May 8 is now the Bank Holiday, having been brought forward from May 4, please tune into local radio which will be running programmes throughout the day.

On the internet, you can also visit The Big Neighbourhood V.E. Day Family Festival at Home for ideas of how you can decorate your home and take part in a National Party, remembering especially to toast “those who gave so much, we thank you” at 3pm on May 8, being the hour that Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced to the world that Germany had surrendered.

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Britain, its allies and the countries of the British Empire had been at war since September 1939 and the country was exhausted. Those of a certain age will remember blackouts and ration books which were a part of life until the early 1950.

The country certainly pulled together and overcame the Nazi tyranny, just as we will the secret virus enemy we now face.

Roger Brooks

via email

nostalgia

Memories of the railways

For a fireman, life on the railways could be hard or easy depending on your driver, engine or both. One driver who I worked with stated he could not care less about the fireman and the engine didn’t belong to him and so, if you were rostered to work with him, you knew you were going to sweat.

One such memorable trip I had with him was working a passenger train out of Blackpool North to Crewe. We left Fleetwood Shed. Our guard came up to give us our train information and informed us we had Harold Wilson and the rest of his party going back to London after their conference.

I opened the front damper to liven up my fire but the steam gauge seemed reluctant to move anywhere near the operating pressure of 250lbs, in fact it was nearer 180lbs which seemed strange.

By this time I was getting the evil eye from my driver as he kept clocking the steam pressure (or lack of it). With a blow of the guard’s whistle, we were away or so I thought.

As engine no 70026 burst into life, my intrepid driver got a little too ambitious with the regulator (throttle) and the wheel slip that entailed had us still stationary but our driving wheels must have been spinning at 50mph, forcing a large amount of my lovingly constructed fire out of the chimney and into orbit somewhere over Blackpool Tower.

My driver managed to get a grip of himself but by the time we were passing Nuclear Fuels at Salwick, I knew we were in trouble with steam pressure dropping and half the North West railway backing up behind us. We requested a fresh engine at Preston but told to carry on to Wigan where another engine would hook on to our front and “doublehead” us to Crewe. There was a steward’s enquiry a couple of days later and it ensued that the tubes were blocked and no further action was taken.

This was not a unique experience and many a trip turned into an epic due to lack of maintenance in the departing engines and the rush to diesels.

A driver I enjoyed working with was an Irishman who was always pulling practical jokes on his fireman.

One time we were working a passenger train out of Manchester Central to Blackpool North. We only had six coaches on and had our best engine, no 45200, to get us there. Things didn’t go to plan. It was winter and we were steam heating the carriages. As I was busy talking, I never paid any attention to my steam heating gauge and put too much pressure through the flexible pipe and consequently blew it apart. A fitter eventually repaired it but we were now running late. Our guard gave us right of way and we sped off into the night only to go a short distance when we were confronted with a stop signal. I climbed down and rang the ‘Bobby’ (signalman). He said, “Where’s your guard?” I replied, “In the train.” “Wrong”, came the reply. “You set off so fast that, even by running, your guard never made it onto the train. He is walking back down the line towards you”.

So a very forlorn driver never made it to the station buffet for his nightcap.

Malcolm Tipper

via email