9 August 1945
Red Funnel Steamers advertised a “special marine attraction” to greet the Queen Mary on her return to Southampton “after her war years of absence abroad.” At 11.30 am a steamer would leave the Royal Pier to meet the famous liner in Southampton Water and then go on to Ryde, to return at 6pm. The fare would be 5/- (25p) children 2/6 (12 ½ p) . Numbers would be limited, and the steamer would sail as soon as she was full. The trip replaced the usual 2.30 cruise to Ryde.

10 August 1945
The Echo looked forward to the arrival of the Queen Mary the following day: “No elaborate arrangements have been made for her arrival, but the occasion will not pass unnoticed" The Ocean Dock was decorated with bunting, the Mayor Councillor J C Dyas would be present as Admiral of the Port, and the Southampton Police Band would be playing on the Quay.

11 August 1945
The flurry of telegrams concerning the Japanese offer of surrender between London, Washington, Moscow, and Chungking was expected to continue for another seven or eight hours as the Echo went to press. “In that event, the end of World War Two may be delayed until tomorrow, or even later” (Southern Daily Echo 11 August 2020) “Widespread expectation in Washington is that Japan will surrender unconditionally in a few days if the Allies insist.”
“Southampton’s arrangements for the celebration of VJ Day, when the official announcement is made that the war with Japan is over, will be on much the same lines as VE Day.” There would be a service of thanksgiving in the Civic Centre forecourt or the Guildhall, according to the weather. Flags would be flown “and any entertainment that can be arranged at short notice will be fixed up.” The general attitude in the Town was low-key: “it was better to wait until an official announcement is made.”
What was not low-key was the welcome for the Queen Mary: “She had the sort of welcome she had earned. As she entered the Solent and steamed up Southampton Water, ships of all sizes sounded their sirens in salute: from vantage points on shore holiday-makers and others waved their welcome and gave her a cheer.” The Hythe Ferries passing back and forth between one and two o’clock “could scarcely have been more crowded”
The Mayor broke his holiday at Weymouth to “greet the giant Cunarder on her homecoming.” He had to borrow Alderman A D Buck’s robe as the mayoral robes had been sent to a furrier’s for renovation while he was on holday, and the furrier had gone on holiday himself. The official party included representatives from the Ministry of War Transport, the Southern Railway Company and Cunard White Star, the Admiralty and the US Army and Navy.
US Army tugs steamed out of Ocean Dock to make room for her. She was coming in to a blitzed Berth 44, where the covered gangways had been repainted with her name, and customs officers had set up their examination tables in the sheds where the boat train waited. The Cunard White Star house flag flew between the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, and there was bunting on every available girder and balcony. Other ships in port were dressed over-all.
Around two o’clock there was a rush to get the first glimpse of her as she came up onto the swinging ground. The sirens grew louder as tugs which had manoeuvred her in peacetime brought her into port again, and film units and the BBC were able to operate from the quayside as war-time restrictions in the military port were lifted.

11 August 1945

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The Queen Mary surrounded by vessels large and small entering Southampton for the first time in years.

As she “sidled gently” into her berth, Service passengers clambered onto rails, boats and other vantage points, the official party waved in welcome, and Police Band played “Rule Britannia.”
Then came formalities: the National Anthems played to a hushed crowd; Lord Mottistone, Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, welcomed five Saudi Princes in Arabic; the Mayor welcomed the princes through an interpreter; and there was a naval guard of honour to welcome them on the quay.
The Mayor welcomed the Commander and crew of the Queen Mary, “many of whom are Southampton men.” (Southern Daily Echo 13 August 1945)
On board, “just like the old days,” there was a welcome home party in the saloon, with a cake declaring “Home Again 1939-1945”, flashlights and shouted questions from the press and the BBC setting up microphones. The Mayoress cut the cake, and the Mayor toured the liner and chatted with the crew.
On every vantage point, every shoreline, every available boat, were crowds of onlookers. They were on the roof of the South Western Hotel, on the roofs of ordinary houses with a view of Southampton Water, all along the Old Walls, and on Forty Steps; they lined Weston Shore with 700 cars and thousands of people.
One woman, caught by the Queen Mary’s wash as she stood on the beach, said “Oh, well. It’s worth it to know that the liners are coming back to Southampton again.”

13 August 1945
The Echo reported that the Council’s Summer Entertainments Commitee would be meeting the following day to give “definite shape” to plans for the anticipated celebration of VJ Day. The Mayor’s holiday was definitely on hold, as he would be chairing the meeting and participating in the forthcoming events.
Already planned was a short thanksgiving service in the Civic Centre forecourt (in the Guildhall if wet) Token detachments had been invited to parade:
US Army and Navy
British fighting services
Merchant Navy
Home Guard
Royal Observer Corps
Police
NPS
Civil Defence Services
WVS
St John Ambulance
British Red Cross
Southampton Borough Hospital
Royal South Hants Hospital
Women’s Land Army
British Legion
Cadet and Youth Organisations
“The Mayor invites members of organisations which have been disbanded or stood down to report at the Civic Centre forecourt on the afternoon of the service, in order to form a representative detachment to take part in the parade. Uniform should be worn, if possible.” (Southern Daily Echo 13 August 1945) This included the Home Guard, which had been stood down 3 December 1944.
There was no question this time that the Civic Centre clock tower and the forecourt would be floodlit, unlike VE Day when some black-out regulations were still in force.
There was also the possibility of a sports meeting between Southampton Portsmouth and Eastleigh at the Sports Centre, and a regatta organised by local rowing and sailing clubs. All this would require organisation, and there might not be time to prepare for elaborate events.

14 August 1945
The Japanese surrender seemed immanent: the Emperor was going to speak to his people, and the War Cabinet had met. “Ending a world war, it seems, is not as simple as starting one.” (Southern Daily Echo 14 August 1945)
Once again, flagstaffs and standards, loudspeakers and floodlights, had been put up in the Civic Centre forecourt. “The Corporation make an appeal to the public to leave the flags alone this time.”
In a letter to the Echo, Mr Asher complained that he had only been able to see the Queen Mary’s smoke. “Surely the least the Council could have done was to make some special arrangements with the Harbour Board and the Southern Railway for this memorable occasion?”

15 August 1945
The day began and ended with celebrating crowds and bonfires.
At midnight, the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, told the waiting nation that Japan had surrendered. Southampton was “told” the same news by the ships in the Docks: “because no town in Britain has had more intimate links with the war it was natural that no town in Britain should have celebrated the great news of peace more rousingly.” (Southern Daily Echo 15 August 1945) Most people were in bed and asleep when the sirens sounded just after midnight, the expected news having been delayed and postponed so often they were no longer waiting patiently by their radios. They were soon up and heading for the centre of town.
An Echo reporter stood in Above Bar just at midnight, watching “a couple of speeding taxis and a few GIs making for a Red Cross club.” Five minutes later, “not so quiet! Jeeps, lorries and private cars racing along with klaxons sounding Vs in Morse: the first of thousands shouting the news: perfect strangers shaking hands, hugging and kissing each other. Down in the Docks a little ship began piping out Vs on its shrill siren. It was the signal for the starting of the siren chorus. The deep-throated sirens of the Queen Mary joined in and almost swamped the little chaps.” Ships sent up rockets and starshells, and searchlights raked the skies.
“Rejoicings had begun. Fireworks were cracking, bonfires were lit (some in the streets). Service men and civilians surged through the streets with linked arms.” Within an hour Above Bar was jammed with “Jeeps draped with humanity; lorries with shouting sailors, soldiers and civilians on their roofs, on bonnets and on the running boards.” Twenty people were counted on one jeep, thirty on top of a coach crawling through the crowds.

Southern Evening Echo 17 August 1945

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At the Junction, midnight 15 August.

The crowds in Above Bar and the High Street were “vast and wildly excited … [and] for the most part orderly.” However, shop windows were smashed, and the Glasgow Hotel in Bernard Street broken into and looted. The landlord of the Cooper’s Arms gave away his beer.
The street bonfires were fueled by any material that could be picked up or pulled down. Someone started a bonfire on a bombsite opposite when the Echo Building had once stood. “It started as just a little mound of sticks and paper. Within a matter of minutes it had spread halfway across the road. Safety fences bordering the blitzed basements were ripped up and thrown on it. A builder’s truck, full of celebrating girls, crashed through the crowd. The girls were tilted out and the truck was run onto the fire.” More and more fires were lit: at the Bargate, in London Road, in the High Street. In a town full of bomb sites there was plenty of more-or-less open space and fuel.
The crowds swarmed on top of parked cars, damaging them, and one car, left parked at the Bargate, was set alight. As the Echo said, there were some “who let their feelings get the better of them, and were responsible for acts which today they doubtless regret.”
The roses in the Civic Centre Rose garden were plucked in armfuls by the revellers as they headed home.
Once again, as with VE day, bakers found themselves working over two days of national holiday: “Bread Supplies will be available and deliveries will be made on both days of the VJ day holiday. A further announcement will be made giving the date on which bakers will take their holiday.” Hants and Dorset Buses planned to run normal services on Thursday 16 August (VJ day 2), having run Bank Holiday services on the 15th, with extra buses for workers. There would be no post delivered or collected on the 16th, with the morning delivery on the 15th being the last until Friday 17 August. Post Offices would be open briefly on Thursday morning, 9.00-10.30am (Head Post Office 9-12) The Docks Office would be open “for telegraph business only” for the rest of the day.
The Ministry of Labour and National Service announced that men who had been called up, men and women who had been directed to a new job, disabled and able bodied people who were about to start training, should continue as instructed. “Any person in doubt as to the desirability of proceeding to a particular course of of training should consult the employment exchange.” As should anyone being sent away from home to a war job.
The telephone exchanges were swamped with calls from over the two days of the holidays, and the public were asked to “write, not 'phone.”
It was wet, so the Thanksgiving service took place in the Guildhall. The “token detachments” formed up individually in the Civic Centre forecourt and marched round and into the building. The Mayor, Mayoress, Sherriff, Town Clerk, Commander s of the Allied Forces, and other officials and representatives took the stage behind the Borough maces,and Mr Herbert Maxwell played the organ. The Mayor said it “was the great day they they had all so anxiously awaited. Many of them as yet did not realise the full extent of its meaning. As Mayor, he appealed to them all take that interest in the welfare of their town and country which was so necessary for lasting peace.” (Southern Daily Echo 16 August 1945)
Canon R B Jolly, the Rector of St Mary’s, and the Mayor’s chaplain Rev W A H Barnes led the prayers of “ thanks for the ready sacrifice of the whole people, and all who endured bravely in pain and loss,” and “for a true and lasting peace and a new world.”

Southern Evening Echo 16 August 1945

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Thanksgiving service 15 August 1945.

There had been some confusion: the service took place in the morning, but earlier announcements (see 13 August) had been that it would take place in the afternoon, and hundreds of people turned up then. The Mayor did not want them to be disappointed, so he called in his chaplain, who conducted a short service from the Civic Centre steps. Hymns were sung unaccompanied.
VJ street parties had begun. Unfortunately the Echo could not send reporters out as they were so short of staff, but they asked organisers to supply brief details. “And we wish hosts, hostesses and their little guests good weather and lots of fun.”
Brunswick Square again put on a brave show of bunting. “Always dull and dilapidated, the little square off Bernard Street was made more drab by the severe damage it suffered in the raids. But the occupants of the tenable houses left – 14 out of 24 – have decorated the one and only lamp-post in the middle of the square and stretched streamers of flags between the crumbling walls of their sad-looking homes. The whole of the bunting is probably worth only a few shillings but its value psychologically is inestimable.”
Elsewhere, the Echo was disappointed with Southampton’s decorations: “the town is not nearly as bright with bunting as it was during the VE celebrations.”
There may not have been as much bunting, but on the second night of celebrations there were lights everywhere. Neon lights, and floodlights, and Groves Electrical Engineers at 19 College Place, at the top of London Road, was lit up even more brightly than VE Day. One of the cinemas turned spotlights on street processions, including one “led by a perky little chap in Bedouin costume.” There was an atmosphere of carnival, of fancy dress (some of it made of torn-down bunting)
Bands and musicians played to the crowds, including Dr Horace Maybray-King who took his piano-accordion to Bitterne Triangle for a three-hour programme of community singing and dancing. In the early hours of VJ day, “many turned out with coats over pajamas to join in singing, dancing and letting off fireworks.”
“Right from the time when VJ was announced up to 5.30 yesterday morning the Southampton National Fire Service had little more than a few seconds rest.” (Southern Daily Echo 16 August 1945.) Company Officer Nicholson told the Echo: “Never in all my life have I seen anything like it. Fires were in every imaginable place and there we were flying around the streets looking for them.” It was mostly a matter of making sure the fire was safe rather than putting them out, which would have met with resistance from the crowds. The Transport Department were asked to cut power to the tram wire in Above Bar when a nearby bonfire made them red hot and in danger of falling. American soldiers set up “Road Closed” signs to divert traffic round the London Road bonfire outside the Ordnance Survey Offices up Carlton Crescent and down Rockstone Place. One group calmly sat around a fire and made toast.
If you wanted a pint in many of the pubs, you needed to bring your own glass: the ingenious were spotted “blowing the froth off a pint jam-jar.” By the end of the night, pretty well everywhere was sold out.
The Corporation had forestalled some of the more acrobatic activities of VE day by wrapping the tops of lamp posts with barbed wire. They also took down the flags of the United Nations before dark as several had gone missing on VE day.
At 9pm, the King broadcast to the nation, and the dancing crowds in the Civic Centre forecourt fell still and silent to listen.

Southern Evening Echo 17 August 1945

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Listening to the King, 9pm 15 August 1945.

Half a dozen British sailors got a lift on a fire engine after falling asleep on the escape ladder at a call-out in the High Street. An American soldier was seen walking down the middle of the road, waving a watchman’s red lamp and shouting “Taxi!”

16 August 1945
Seven cars had been stolen overnight. A young man sat with his head in his hands amid the ashes of the Above Bar bonfire.
More bonfires were lit as night fell, official and unofficial. The Mayor crossed the Itchen to light a 25 ft “beacon” on the Veracity Ground “that must have been visible on the Isle of Wight.” An hour later, the Corporation-built fire on the Common was burning well, together with dozens of others in back gardens, open spaces, and bombsites.
Fuel hunters had ransacked more bomb-damaged properties: houses nearly ready for re-occupation had their doors “wrenched away and thrown on the flames.”
“Although most of the ‘pubs’ were closed, the town was very much ‘lit up’” (Southern Evening Echo 17 August 1945)
There was more dancing on the Civic Centre forecourt, and “the Services again provided much of the impromptu entertainment, ranging from acrobatics on the flag poles to “swimming” in the fountain.” At midnight, the crowd started shouting “We want the Mayor and Mayoress!”, and when the couple went down onto the forecourt, the Mayoress was rushed by Merchant Navy sailors, who kissed and hugged her. The press of the crowd was so great that the police had to form a cordon to protect the Mayoress.
The official ending of the VJ celebrations was marked by the Mayor and Mayoress wishing everyone “good night and good luck” over the microphones.
The crowds were getting tired. They had been partying for three nights running, and most headed for their beds soon after midnight.
The Mayor and Mayoress, however, were heading for the Polygon Hotel, where there was a party in the Green Lounge given by the regular patrons to thank the staff for what they had done during the war.
There were some who kept going until dawn, wandering home exhausted.

Southern Evening Echo 17 August 1945

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Dancing for the third night running.

17 August 1945
Shopkeepers opening up after the two days of non-stop revels found anything loose had gone up in smoke: shutters and signs, wooden railings, even trucks left in the back of the premises. Windows had been broken, and three more cars stolen.
There was a lot of work to be done in the parks, where flower beds had been trampled and plants uprooted. Mr Binnington, the Parks Superintendent, “reported that the damage is not beyond fairly quick restoration and he hoped that the rose garden will be as attractive next summer.” (Southern Daily Echo 17 August 2020.) Vegetables from the Parks Department’s demonstration allotment in East Park were scattered all over the tennis courts. They had hoped to have a special display at the Dig for Victory garden show later in the month, but would at least be able to enter a few competition classes.
The Queen Mary sailed at dawn for New York with 15,060 US Troops, men of the 20th Infantry Division and the staffs of three American General Hospitals.

18 August 1945
“If you happen to be down-town after dark … WATCH YOUR STEP!” (Southern Daily Echo 18 August 2020.) With safety fences thrown on bonfires, it was possible to fall up to 20ft into basements of blitzed shops. A very few railings remained, and the Borough Engineers’ Department were starting to reinstate them. “We have not enough timber in hand for the job,” a spokesman told the Echo, “but more has been ordered, and as soon as it comes we will make the ruins safe again.”

19 August 1945
Thanksgiving services were held at 11 am in the ruins of St Mary’s, at 4pm in the Synagogue in Albion Place and at 8pm in the Guildhall, an Anglo-American service.

Southern Evening Echo 20 August 1945

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The Mayor and Corporation arrive "in state," followed by the British Legion Standards. The roofless building is packed.

The St Mary’s service was a Civic occasion, attended by representatives of public bodies, Armed Forces, Civil Defence organisations, the Women’s Voluntary Service and the British Legion. The space within the ruins was packed, but there was room in the churchyard to follow events. The Mayor and other members of the Corporation gathered in the Chantry Hall then walked in state through the ranks of a Police detachment to St Mary’s. Canon Jolly received the standards of the Southampton Branch of the British Legion, and of the women’s section, and placed them on the altar. Music was provided by a piano and a small orchestra under Mr Gil Hulme. The lessons were read by the Mayor and by Canon Jolly’s son, Captain S B Jolly, just posted to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The Rector read the names of 64 men from the parishes of St Mary’s and Holy Trinity who had lost their lives, and seven others, reported missing “during an impressive act of remembrance.” (Southern Daily Echo 20 August 1945.) He then preached on a text from Exodus: “Go Forward.” (Exodus 14 v 15). The offertory was for the Church Restoration Fund, and concluded with the National Anthems of the UK, USA, Russia and China.

Southern Evening Echo 18 August 1945

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All Jews in British and Allied Forces were cordially invited to a Victory Service at the Synagogue in Albion Place.

At 6pm the queues began at the Guildhall for the Anglo-American Thanksgiving Service organised by the Southampton Christian Laymen’s Council and the United Christian Council. Nearly 2000 British and American service men and women, Civil Defence Works and civilians had taken their seats by 8pm when the service started. Three American Army chaplains (Senior Chaplain Tull, African American Chaplain E L Briggs, Chaplain L W Wickham), an Anglican clergyman (Rev R C Rham, vicar of South Stoneham) and a Methodist Minister (Rev John Huntley), led the worship, joined on the platform by Alderman H Vincent, the Sheriff, and his wife, Alderman R N Sinclair (a member of the Southampton Christian Laymen’s Council), Alderman F Woolley (a Methodist Local Preacher), and a representative company of townspeople. Frederick Geoghegan played the organ for the hymns and for Miss Eva Thorne singing “Peace, perfect peace.” Sergt. King of the US Forces, accompanied by F Stamper, sang the Lord’s Prayer. Chaplain Tull and Rev R C Rham gave the addresses, and the Sheriff closed the service by wishing “their American friends … a safe journey home.” After the National Anthems, the congregation sang “God be with you till we meet again,” and Chaplain Wickham pronounced the blessing.

20 August 1945
One of the cars stolen during the celebrations was found in Botley with “a present of two gallons of petrol … in the tank.” (Southern Daily Echo 20 August 2020)
The Queen Elizabeth came home shrouded in mist. “The deep bass notes of her sirens with which she announced her coming, sent people clambering to roof-tops to get their first glimpse of the newcomer.”
The bakers got their holidays in lieu, 20 and 21 August.

21 August 1945
The Docks Thanksgiving Service was held at 10 am in the Seamen’s Church in Queen’s Terrace. It had been postponed from Monday because of the arrival of the Queen Elizabeth.

28 August 1945
The Echo reported the prize winners at the Dig for Victory Garden Show. The Tachbury Mount Colony won several prizes, but there is no reference to the Corporation Parks Department (see 17 August).

To be continued


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