Essays

The End of Hostilities in Europe

Julie and her husband

By Julie Hallett (Née Breeze), WREN

As a British Wren, stationed not far from London, I remember the occasion very well. Although I had never been in a serious bombing raid or lost a family member in the fight, the end of the war in Europe came as a great relief and unsuspected pressures were suddenly released.

For over five years now, Great Britain had endured 'blackout' conditions at night; a measure intended to avoid leading enemy bombers to their targets. All windows were hung with heavy black curtains, tightly drawn, not even a chink of light could be seen from outside. The Air-raid Wardens patrolling the streets made sure of that! Street lamps were shaded and shed only the minimum amount of light considered necessary for safety. Car headlights were fitted with louvered covers directing the light downwards and visibility was very poor. It was gloomy, but we got used to it, or so we thought.

The evening after hearing that the war in Europe had ended, all of us who were free to do so walked down town to celebrate. What a transformation! Most of the houses we passed had all their curtains thrown back, light poured out into the streets and we were treated to views of people in their sitting rooms or gathered around dining tables. In spite of the intimacy of these scenes, it was as if the whole world was being invited to go in to join them. The elation I experienced is hard to describe. A weight had been lifted from my shoulders, a burden I had not realized I had been carrying. My steps became lighter and my lungs seemed to expand more with every breath.

I was 'walking on a cloud' with a renewed zest for life. I'll never forget it! Not ever!

If such euphoria could come from so simple a thing, how can one imagine the extremes of emotion felt by Europeans when released from occupation by the enemy?

Julie Hallett