Ted's story

The End of War - August 1945

I was a boarder at school in Reading, England, on VE Day 8th May 1945 and I was nearly 12 years old. We boys spent all day scrounging wood and building the most ginormous bonfire. Then in the evening we jumped about (hardly dancing!) around the fire, singing all those silly songs such as "One man went to mow", "Ten green bottles", "Clementine", and something about "I ain't got my specs with me". I suppose there was no homework that day, which would have been far more important than the end of the war!

The boarding house had large ground floor windows which had been blocked with self-standing walls at the beginning of the war as blast protection. That day, we had a smashing time demolishing the walls. At last we had daylight in the refectory and common room!

The Canadians used to send the school 5 gallon tins of orange jelly, which we used instead of jam - quite a luxury. Food rationing after the war was worse than during hostilities as Britain tried to feed starving Europe. So another memorable occasion was the arrival of the first bananas in six years.

I don't remember anything about VJ Day, probably because it was during the school holidays. We lived in a quiet suburban street where things were very sedate. I was an only child and we just listened to the wireless and played cribbage. My main recreation were solo bike rides around the Berkshire countryside, climbing the fir trees in Wellington College grounds, and developing photographs in the attic.

I must have joined the school CCF that year, and once a week I went to school in khaki uniform for square bashing in the afternoon. There was a .22 rifle range, and the whole business of war was rather fun. The officers were masters who had been through WW1 and some of them clearly showed the effects of shellshock and gas, but we just thought they were mad. The downside was getting put on a charge for dirty boots, and being made to run around the quad with a full pack on the back.

Those were the days!

Ted Webber
U3A Sunshine Coast, Australia - February 2005

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