VE Day in RYE 8 May 2045

By David Pawsey

On May 8 sixty years ago the War in Europe came to a close and the population of Rye, who had been in the front line since War was declared on 3 September 1939, celebrated the news with impromptu parties and the hoisting of flags and draping of bunting across the streets. This, the most famous picture taken in Rye during the War, shows the Rye Home Guard on parade through Landgate. Taken in 1940, at the height of the invasion scare it reflects the determination that these men had to defend their town and country. Many went on to join the regular army.

May 9th. was a holiday but not an official Bank Holiday, as the staff had to open the banks for between the hours of 10am & 11am. There was never a day like this before or since. Hitler was dead and Winston Churchill’s words ran through the land.

It's All Over
It’s All Over


The sailors from H.M.S. Haig, the naval shore based station at the Secondary School, charged around the town kissing the girls and attempting to drink the pubs dry. Two of them climbed the front of the Bell Inn and tied a rope to the bell’s hammer and proceeded to ring it in exuberant fashion, unfortunately the hammer came away from the bell and hit the sailor pulling the rope. No lasting harm was done and the celebrations continued. Two naval officers careered around the town in a red triumph sports car, until it hit a curb and broke the suspension.


There was a bonfire in the Pipemakers Arms Car Park, where mattresses from the air raid shelters were used to fuel the flames Bobby Edwards. ‘ sister was observed taking the big mat from the entrance of the pub and replenishing the fire with it.

There were street parties in Kings Avenue and Military Road and a Torchlight Procession around the town followed by fireworks on the Town Salts.

V.J.Day (victory over Japan) came three months later with the dropping of two Atom Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This day, celebrated on August 15th. 1945 saw more celebrations on The Salts. There were running races and novelty events including the famous “Greasy Pole”, were men and youths did their best to reach the top of a pole smothered on thick slippery grease, astonishingly one man managed to reach the top. There was also a “Greasy Pig”, a fair sized porker, covered in Vaseline and let loose among the competitors who jumped and dived in rugby fashion in their efforts to capture the animal. The man who caught the pig carried the prize home. This event would be frowned upon today but after the suffering that men and women had experienced during the previous five years the squealing of a terrified pig was just a humorous episode that brought merriment to the fun starved populace of Rye.

Another interesting event was a Womens Swimming Race from the Railway Bridge to Monkbretton Bridge, over 200 yards. The race was won by Julie Smith (now Mrs. Julie Fuggle), Pat Higgins was second.

The Royal British Legion are holding a parade and church service on Sunday 8 May to commemorate both V.E. & V.J. days. The Parade will leave the Royal British Legion Club at 2.30 (muster at 2.15) for a church service at St. Mary’s at 3pm. People not able to march the whole route will be able to join the parade at East Street where it will pause for them to join the ranks.

Ashford Sea Cadet Band will be in attendance and there will be many standards to mark this special occasion.

Refreshments will be available at the British Legion Club after dismissal of the parade approx. 4.15pm. for those who took part in the parade or were in church for the service.

Many thanks to Jo’ Kirkham, Mrs. M. Philcox and Bobby Edwards for their fascinating contributions and recollections.

The Bell Will Ring Again The famous bell at the Bell Inn will ring again on the 60th. Anniversary of V.E. Day. It was last rung by a sailor from HMS Haig who was almost killed when the old hammer came away from the bell and hit him as he yanked on the rope. A new hammer is being made and fitted. The Mayoress of Rye, Jessica Neame will swing the rope, the bell will utter its first note since that day sixty years ago when it was rung to celebrate victory in Europe.

Rye’s Own May 2005

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