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Trail Stop No 11 - 1940s:
VE Day and war time in St. Ives

On the evening of 7th May 1945, people across Britain gathered round their wireless sets to hear the long-awaited news that Nazi Germany had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. The announcement marked the end of the Second World War in Europe, after six devastating years. The following day, 8th May, was declared Victory in Europe Day, a day of celebration across the country.

Early on that bright, sunny day, the streets of St Ives were already filled with crowds of people, laughing and dancing. Flags were flown from the Malakoff, the parish church tower and from public buildings, business premises and private houses, and churches were open all day, for thanksgiving for “this happy victory”. VE Day was not the end of the war, of course — that was still three months away — and prayers were offered at the parish church for those still fighting in south-east Asia and the Far East, as well as for the fallen and the bereaved.

The following day, a parade was assembled at the Malakoff, which included members of the Home Guard, Civil Defence, Air Training Corps, Observer Corps, St John Ambulance, Red Cross, Women’s Voluntary Service, Boys Brigade, Scouts and Guides. Crowds gathered at the Guildhall for a victory dance that evening, and dancing continued in the harbour.

Among those who witnessed the celebrations were 13-year-old twins Irene and Jean Pooke, who had been evacuated to St Ives from their home in east London the previous year.  Their father, who was a member of the Home Guard, manning ack-ack guns and working on decontamination, had first-hand knowledge of the horrors of bombing, and with the advent of the Nazi V1 flying bomb campaign, he arranged for the girls to be sent to St Ives.

They boarded with William and Annie Dyer, who lived in Street an Garrow; William ran a butcher’s shop in Tregenna Hill. Irene’s son Calvin describes Irene and Jean’s time in St Ives: “They enrolled at St Ives Senior School, where they excelled, with Irene finishing top girl in her class. The twins were very well looked after in St Ives, and were happy but they missed their family and when they knew the war was coming to an end, they wrote to their father to ask if they could come home.

“A few days later the twins were out in St Ives when they heard their brother’s voice and looked up to see him and their dad. Their father had come down on the train as soon as he received the twins’ letter. They all stayed at Mr and Mrs Dyer’s for a couple more nights, which included 8th May, before returning home to the Old Kent Road.”

On VE Day, the twins recall the flags flying, and joining in the dancing in the street. "Everyone was overjoyed and very relieved that the war was over", says Jean. “I can remember a brass band playing near the church at the beginning of Fore Street. Everybody in St Ives seemed to be in Fore Street and around the little road to the harbour, where the lifeboat station now is.”

Home Guard units from St. Ives and Lelant on parade at the harbour

A street party in Back Road

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