The Second World War was won in Europe on Tuesday May 8th 1945. It was not won in the Far East until August 15th. Celebrations started on May 8th. This worksheet tells about how victory was celebrated in Buckinghamshire.
Jacqueline Ball remembers a great V sign made from bonfires was lit on Whiteleaf Hill, where it could be seen for miles around (Jacqueline Ball: WW2 People's War). Hazel Taylor remembers British prisoners-of-war coming back from overseas. They looked like skeletons and were taken to Stoke Mandeville Hospital to recover. No-one was allowed to visit them until they had recovered more and put on weight. She remembers dancing on her local green when peace was declared (Hazel Taylor: WW2 People's War).
Exchange of prisoners
Some prisoners-of-war stayed in Buckinghamshire after the war. They had made friends locally and often married local women. They sometimes ended up owning their own farms. One prisoner of war called Rudi Baetke ended up keeping pigs in the same huts he had stayed in as a prisoner of war at Westhorpe House.
Many of the British prisoners-of-war were flown to RAF Westcott from the continent. In May 1945 20,809 were flown to Westcott and 15,088 to Oakley. They were put up in the aircraft hangars until they could make their way home. Some were taken to Penn Wood army camp and housed there for a while before returning home.
Westcott Airfield was also used for Operation Exodus. This was the operation to send prisoners of war back to their home countries. Wilton Park in Beaconsfield became the centre for the de-Nazification of German prisoners-of-war after the Second World War.
Return of evacuees
Evacuees started to return to London after 1941, when the Blitz had ended and it was less dangerous to live there. Some left again during 1944 when the V1 and V2 rockets were dropped on London.
Many evacuees in High Wycombe didn’t want to go back to London, some because their houses had been bombed, but others because they preferred High Wycombe.
The 2nd Polish Corps were stationed at the army camp in Penn Wood in 1946 to wait to be resettled in Poland. 119 Poles remained in 1948.
When the war was won in Europe, Churchill heard the news at Chequers. He decided to hold a general election and spoke to a large crowd from the Red Lion pub in High Wycombe, encouraging them to vote for the conservative candidate. However, he lost the election.
- Imagine you were there at the end of the Second World War and you want to celebrate. What would you do? Write an invitation for your party, including the date, where it will be held and what kind of entertainment you would have.
- Churchill lost the election in 1945 at the end of the war. Why do you think he lost, even though he had won the war? What do you think Churchill thought of it?