Coronavirus is the biggest calamity to hit us since WW2 but we can still celebrate 75 years of peace since WW2 ended in Europe, never forgetting that hostilities only ended in the Far East with VJ Day on 2 September 1945. Many more lives were lost in those three months or later died of injuries. However, VE Day assumes such great importance because after years of privation and danger people turned to celebration as the lights went back on again.
On VE Day schools closed for the day and victory was characterized by street parties, the one shown was in Wheatley Avenue; these were held in streets all over town. A large official event was held in Market Place with music relayed from the Town Hall which was decorated with flags of all the Allies.
In recognition of the substantial American presence in the town and surrounding area, Major Alice Howard from the US Army 121st Station Hospital at ‘White Court’, London Road officially hoisted the victory flag over the church.
In Bocking a Peace Day Celebration was held over a year later on 8 June 1946 when a drumhead service and open air concert was held on Courtauld’s Sports Ground. There were children’s entertainments, a carnival procession, open air dancing and a grand carnival dance in the Village Hall, finishing with a torchlight procession and fireworks.
The War had lasted 2174 days, the town suffered 227 air raids in which 6,378 bombs fell (the majority incendiaries which left the airplane in canisters of thirty) destroying 46 buildings; 169 were severely damaged and another 704 had minor damage.
Every school was provided with Essex County Council standard air raid shelters and you can see a double shelter on the site of the John Ray statue. Three more doubles were built on the playground just out of sight to the right.
The Town Hall semi-basement contained the District Report Centre and the south end and of the building was protected by layers of sandbags. The main entrance had a concrete blockwork blast wall built on the pavement in front of the doors. Similarly the central passages in blocks of four Council houses were turned into air raid shelters by building blockwork walls front and back.
However, it was not just life that was protected as this 1946 aerial view of the ‘Boy Fountain’ shows. At commencement of hostilities the whole feature, which commemorates the death of King George V, was surrounded by a nine inch thick brick wall to protect it at least from shrapnel
Bombs killed five civilians and one RAF airman on the streets; one civilian, a young woman, was tragically killed by an American Army lorry driving on the wrong side of the road at Deanery Corner. Twenty one American and one Polish airman were killed in three aircraft crashes within the greater boundary of Bocking. Eighty five names of those killed in our own armed forces are to be found on the Public Gardens War Memorial.
Lest we forget.