VE Day in Bicester

World War II Jun 10, 2022

Bicester, like most other towns in the country, knew how to celebrate VE Day in style. From 3pm on Monday 7th May 1945 residents began to hang out flags and bunting all along the streets. Then thousands of troops from the neighbouring camps came into town on the Tuesday and everyone was in a celebratory mood.

In the evening there were thanksgiving services held in all the churches. The Urban District Council attended the service in St Edburg’s Church, and several peals were rung on the church’s bells during the day.

At dusk things got even livelier. Fireworks were discharged, and there were displays at the camps. A bonfire was lit in Market Square with people dancing all around it. There was also dancing at the junction of Sheep Street and St John’s Street, where a piano had been brought out on to the pavement, and outside The Star, Highfield, where music was was being played my Mr C. Clifton with his Star Sound System. It all lasted well into the early hours of Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday it was more of an ordinary holiday. A party of about 30 evacuee children were entertained in the afternoon with a tea in the Eclipse Mineral Water yard. Street parties were held all over the town (like the one in Highfield pictured above). But otherwise things remained fairly quiet until the evening, when the bonfires were stocked up and relit in Sheep Street and Market Square, and the previous night’s open-air dancing resumed in various parts of the town.

On the following Saturday Bicester’s jollification’s were continued with a nighttime programme arranged by Councillor J. Leach. Dancing and fireworks kicked off on the Market Square. Then a procession was formed, headed by torchlights, with a large number of adults and children in fancy dress, and a “rag-time” band which had been hurriedly collected by Mr L.T. Evans, who acted as drum major. The bandsmen were all in fancy dress, and produced a lot of noise and fun, but very little tune, from a variety of instruments which included, a cornet, trombone, combs, tin lids, whistles, and cymbals.

An effigy of Hitler was conveyed round in Mr Harry Hawtin’s lorry. It was paraded around the town via King’s End, New Road, North Street, Sheep Street and Priory Road, before returning to Market Square and being burnt on the bonfire, which lasted for several hours. Dancing was again indulged in until midnight, when the week of revelry and fun was brought to a close.

During the evening Councillor Plater, Chairman of the Urban Council, called for three cheers for the Royal Family and for those men and women who made victory possible, and these were very heartily given. Mr L. Hawkins then gave out oranges to all the children under 10.

In the middle of the celebrations several lorry loads of liberated prisoners of war passed through Market Square on their way from the Westcott landing ground to a rest centre, and were given a hearty welcome by the large crowd.