THANKSGIVING AND REJOICING were the headlines in the Newquay Guardian in August 1945 when after almost 6 years of fighting, the war was finally over. Victory in Japan was announced to Britain over the radio at midnight of the 14th August by the newly elected Prime Minister, Mr Clement Atlee. When the news broke after days of great anticipation, the townsfolk of Newquay erupted into spontaneous celebrations, much more than was seen on VE day. People turned out into the streets in the middle of the night to witness and join in with this very historic occasion. In a very short time, the British and Dominion and Allied Forces were parading the streets with musical instruments and singing songs. Of course, being Newquay and August, there was a steady downpour of rain but this didn’t dampen the revellers spirits or their celebrations which went on for about 2-3 hours. Even the Rowlands fair situated at Tretherras with their carousels and dodgems continued to stay open. Those not disturbed by all this activity awoke to the news on the radio which had more people taking to the streets. More preparation had been made in anticipation of this day and the bunting and flags were ready at hand and it wasn’t long before the whole town was decorated. Every person, child, vehicle and dog wore some token hat, flag or ribbon to celebrate. Nothing escaped the national colours as well as flags for the allied nations.
Whilst a two day national holiday had been declared for the whole of the country, at the request of Urban Council, the local cafes had decided to keep open. Although it had been wartime, this was now the height of the holiday season and since VE day, Newquay had seen a return of many tourists wishing to get away from it all. This was very much appreciated by not only the council but the town and its visitors and a letter of thanks to the traders was published in the paper in the following weeks.
In the afternoon of Wednesday 15th August, the official date for VJ day, a thanksgiving service was held on Towan Beach supported by a very large crowd. This was attended by the chairman of the Newquay Urban District Council, Mr Henry Hocking and its members. The address was given by Rev W S H Hallett along with the Rev W Foxon. The message was whilst this was a time of rejoicing, it was also a time of remembrance for all those who would not be returning. Special services were also held in all the churches. That evening it was reported that thousands of people assembled for the fancy dress parade and Flora dance which wound its way to the Killacourt. Celebrations continued and so did the dancing late into the night. Mr H P Peters acted as the Master of Ceremonies and ably assisted by Mr L Sheppard. I should point out that this is not Len Sheppard, Newquay Old Cornwall Society chairman but his father.
Not only were they dancing on the Killacourt, but a large crowd congregated in Central Square, where music was being played by Rosa Loader. All the various dance halls throughout the town were also packed with people who were euphoric and relieved that war was finally over. Every inch of space on the roads and pavements was taken up by those celebrating. All traffic had to be diverted as it had no chance of getting through the crowds. Fireworks were set off throughout the day and into the night as well as many bonfires lit around the town and districts.
Unlike in the VE celebrations, the children were not left out of these festivities. In fact, a great deal of work was put into ensuring there were official sports events, games and tea parties for them. The townsfolk were determined in rallying together to make these celebrations memorable and for everyone, so much so there were many unofficial events as well. Broad Street, Sydney Road, Mayfield Crescent, St Cuthbert’s Road, Robartes Road and Lanhenver Avenue, were just some of the streets mentioned as going the extra mile to put on a party for the children with teas, sandwiches, cakes and ices and gifts of money for each child. All the food being donated by local businesses, cafes and restaurants plus from the people of the streets and roads where the parties were held.
On the Thursday, a victory party was put on in the Berry Road district. This was organised by a committee comprising of Mrs J C Triniman, Mrs Knight, Mrs Rowe, Mr & Mrs Sargent, Mr Burton, Mr Wisebad and Mr Trewella. The party consisted of a large tea for about 150 children, games, a treasure hunt and a fancy-dress carnival. Another bonfire was lit at 8.00pm with further singing and dancing which again went on late into the night.
There are many more names mentioned in the local press who contributed greatly to the organisation of these festivities, Mr H Flamank, Mr & Mrs Dumpleton, Mrs Lillywhite, Mr R J Bellingham, Mr W Bird. Peppi Staffieri (led the dancing with his piano accordion), Mr & Mrs R Cole, Mr & Mrs Tregonning, Mrs E Carter, Mrs Humphreys, Miss Siddons, Mr Appleby, Mr Tozer, Mr H M Mogford and Mrs J Couch. Anyone of these people related to you? Did you know they were involved in this memorable event?
One of the biggest events was organised by the Central Ward on the Killacourt, Mr L Sheppard was the organiser and was assisted by Mr E Luke, A E Banfield, T J Carne and A Bellingham. The WVS (Womens Voluntary Service) and the Womens Institute also contributed their time. A dance band was playing and in the evening a procession was formed starting from the Killacourt and lead by the Foxhole Band, the Flora dance commenced all the way to Pentire where the big bonfire had been built. This time it was Newquay’s turn to produce a figure to burn. “Tojo” (Hideki Tojo) the Japanese prime minister was positioned on the top of the fire. A dance band provided the music for dancing and community singing. Some two thousand people danced, sang and still set off fireworks, all coming together to celebrate the relief that war was finally over.
Celebrations and rejoicing went on all over Cornwall and whilst Newquay was ablaze with colour, Wadebridge in contrast was just ablaze! In the very early hours of Wednesday morning after the news was announced, a few revellers had spilled into the streets. In their excitement, one of them had decided to prematurely light the town’s unfinished bonfire which was due to be completed that day. Once alight, it lit up the whole of Wadebridge. With the glowing flames along with a Scottish soldier parading around playing his bagpipes at full blast, it wasn’t long before the whole town was awake. Later that morning, a special meeting had to be called to revise their VJ programme as they were now minus the bonfire. Whilst this meeting was in progress, news was received that a fire had broken out in the Council’s yard. The local fire crew were called with assistance from the crew at Bodmin but unfortunately the building was gutted. It was felt that Wadebridge would long remember VJ Day for more than just the end of the war.