Friday 8 May, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the formal end of the Second World War in Europe, ‘Victory in Europe Day”. There will be no public gatherings of the remaining veterans of World War II, no great crowds at the Royal Albert Hall, and no traditional street parties to commemorate the six years of misery, sacrifice, courage and endurance of millions of men, women and children around the world. Instead there will be a two-minute silence organised by the Royal British Legion at 11.00am and a televised sing along VE Day 75: The People’s Celebration, on BBC One, followed by an address from the Queen at 9.00pm.
Two people who will be celebrating are 84 year old Lotte Moore and he husband Chris, who live at Chiswick Mall. Lotte’s book Lotte’s War, which documents her experiences as an evacuee, has been adapted for theatre and produced at the Tabard theatre, now the Chiswick Playhouse. For years she and Chris have been touring schools entertaining children with their wartime tales to explain what it was like. You may see Lotte pop up in BBC News programmes today. She talked to The Chiswick Calendar about her memories of VE Day, when she was nine years old.
Images above: Lotte Moore; book cover for Lotte’s War
“Mother took off down the village wrapped in a flag, riding on a lorry” says Lotte. The village was Chipstead in Kent, where she spent the end of the war with her two siblings, but for two years previously she’d been evacuated to Essex, hating every moment of being separated from her parents.
She remembers living in Chipstead as terrifying, with air raids every day, sometimes every hour.
“There was a cave in our garden which acted as the air raid shelter for the whole village. I remember one woman running in , screaming that she’d lost her house and her husband”. The worst thing she says was having to wear the gas mask whenever the air raid sirens went.
Her best memory of VE day was of her father, who was in the RAF, coming up the garden in a jumper and trousers, not in his uniform, having not seen him for the best part of two years.
“We couldn’t believe how our parents acted” she says. “It was mayhem, church bells ringing, people we didn’t know coming in for a glass of wine and going off again, lots of singing,the lights coming on in the streets. Britain had been such a dark place during the war”.
She remembers the wartime spirit with pride:
“We respected the rationing. There wasn’t the greed there is now, and people looked after each other”. She’s more frightened now of the Coronavirus than she was of bombs, she says.
Julie Andrews, star of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, who is also 84, has also compared the anxiety people felt during the Second World War to Coronavirus fears now.
“I feel a very big similarity to the feelings one had then to the feelings one has now,” she said. “Then, I was very concerned and worried and frightened and anxious, and one didn’t know where the next wave would come.”
Lotte is spending the day giving interviews, with BBC Breakfast at 10.00, with BBC News at 12.00 and with local media in Kent. She’s printed out song sheets and is determined to get her whole street singing. The White Cliffs of Dover, We’ll Meet Again and Pack Up Your Troubles are all on the list. Her neighbour, opera lover Katie Hinchcliffe, will be leading the singing on Hammersmith Terrace at 7.00.
Then it will be time to watch the BBC’s concert and another veteran of the Second World War, the Queen.
Chris has written a poem to mark the day:
Poem for NOW
Slow and fearful is the pace
We have slowed down the human race.
Let us stop all talking machines
For a day to hear our innermost dreams.
A total time where you pause and wait,
Listen to each other and communicate.
Talk and be brave or think out loud,
Share yourself, do not be proud
Read More Stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Lotte Moore, memoir of a WWII childhood