Profound relief was the dominant note in Hornsey’s rejoicings on the morning of VE Day. Then as the day advanced people’s feelings found fuller vent and they let themselves go with whole-hearted joyfulness. This universal feeling was tempered, however, by the fact that the war in the far east still goes on.
By midnight on Tuesday bonfires were burning throughout the borough, hundreds of searchlights scanned the skies and intermittent explosions could be heard. But the fireguards, police and Civil Defence were not perturbed. The people of Hornsey were doing the things that they had dreamed of doing through nearly six years of weary war. Pianos were hauled into bonfire-lit streets thronged with children and grown ups singing and dancing. V shaped fairy lighting flickered on the walls of bomb-scarred houses draped with flags and bunting.
The centre of festivities was the forecourt of the Town Hall where thousands flocked throughout the day. Broadcasts by the Prime Minister and the King were relayed over loud speakers. At 4pm crowds gathered to join in the ‘Cease Fire’ Thanksgiving Service conducted by the Rev.E S Duval, Rector of St Mary’s Parish Church and Rural Dean of Hornsey. Children perched on window sills and their parents’ shoulders, mothers with prams and youths with decorated cycles crowded behind representatives of the Civil Defence Services, British Legion, NFS, youth organisations, British Red cross and WVS etc.
On the balcony at the entrance to the Town Hall were the Mayor, Town Clerk and other local personalities of various churches. Hymns were sung with a fervour that expressed the profound relief and thankfulness that the dangers at home and the fighting in Europe were at an end. Accompaniments and selections were triumphantly played by the Hornsey British Legion Band which in the evening also played for dancing. A speech was delivered by the Mayor during the service.
The Hornsey swimming pool was also gaily floodlit and decorated with coloured lights with happy couples dancing around the pool to gramophone records. Public houses were crowded and there were no drunken brawls or unpleasant scenes. Just music and singing and happiness. Services were held in all the churches during the evening and were crowded. Alexandra Palace was transformed into a vast amusement centre. Over 3,000 cheering, singing, flag-waving people swarmed into the Palace grounds. Most of them came to for the huge Victory bonfire erected on the grassy slope in front of the Palace.
Just before 10 o’clock every street sprang into life. Bonfires were lit at both ends of roads and they burned merrily on every bombed site. Furniture, shelter bunks, rafters and salvage sacks kept these fires burning till the early hours of Wednesday morning. In one street a life size figure of Hitler was thrown into the fire and as it burned the cheers could be heard for miles around.