Leeds Celebrations for VE Day

On Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the front page headline of the Yorkshire Post announced “THE EUROPEAN WAR IS OVER AND THIS IS VE-DAY AND A HOLIDAY”.

After six long years of bitter struggle, the British people had won freedom from fear and they celebrated in style. No more so than here in Leeds, where despite the heavy rain crowds gathered in the city centre to toast the announcement by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the Nazi regime had been defeated in Europe.

Dense crowds on The Headrow and Victoria Square, in front of Leeds Town Hall. They are waiting for the Victory Parade to begin, part of the VE celebrations.
Dense crowds on The Headrow and Victoria Square, in front of Leeds Town Hall. They are waiting for the Victory Parade to begin, part of the VE celebrations.

That announcement was long-expected. Leeds-resident Ronald Addyman was working at a munitions factory at the time and reports that “It was made known in the factory that when the surrender was confirmed a Union Jack would be flown over the factory…The news of the surrender actually came through in the evening when I was at home. We heard of it in a wireless broadcast during which we were also informed that the following day would be a public holiday.”

VE celebrations on the Town Hall steps
VE celebrations on the Town Hall steps

Even so, some people were not sure how to respond to the celebrations and went to work as usual! Unexpected by their employees, these individuals soon joined the thousands of other Leeds citizens shouting, singing and waving flags up Boar Lane, Albion Street, Briggate, the Headrow and even around the lions of the Town Hall. Thanksgiving services were also held in churches, chapels and synagogues across the city.

Victory Parade, marching past Leeds Town Hall is a contingent of Air Raid Wardens, the Lord Mayor Charles Walker is taking the salute.
Victory Parade, marching past Leeds Town Hall is a contingent of Air Raid Wardens, the Lord Mayor Charles Walker is taking the salute at official celebrations on 13th May.

The images shown here are mainly from the organised celebrations immediately after VE Day.

The people of Leeds enjoyed many thoroughly well-deserved street parties to mark – if not the final conclusion of World War II; with victory in Japan still to come – most certainly the “beginning of the end”: for the first time since 1939 the future could finally be faced in peace.

Midgley Place, Woodhouse VE party
Midgley Place, Woodhouse VE party

Resources

*All available to view in our Local and Family History library

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