Author David Scott describes in his new book how Torquay celebrated victory in Europe in World War Two
In his new book The Funk Hole Myth – Torquay during World War Two author David Scott describes
how the town celebrated VE Day on 8 May 1945.
One hour after the official announcement that the war with Germany was over Torquay’s councillors
assembled at the Town Hall and after speeches at Castle Circus moved on to St Marychurch Town
Hall along with Lt. Col Arthur Sloggett commanding the Home Guard, the officer commanding the
RAF and Civil Defence representatives.
Everyone had been urged to make a flag display as ‘to the best of their ability’ and peals of bells
could be heard across the town.
News that there would be an immediate two day holiday enabled Torquinians to join the rest of the
nation in one big outburst of emotional relief, when quiet residential streets echoed to the sound of
Land of Hope and Glory, There’ll always be an England, Jerusalem and even Knees Up Mother
Strangers hugged and kissed one another, men and women linked arms in dance and song, while
children waved Union Flags to celebrate a new era of peace.
In the afternoon, a drumhead service at Torquay Recreation ground on the sea front was followed
by a march past when Mayor Cllr A. Denys Phillips took the salute. It had already been agreed that if
it had been wet the service would have been held in the Town Hall and the march past dispensed with.
Civic heads didn’t see why they should get wet, even when celebrating the winning of a major war!
Prime Minister Churchill broadcast to the nation at 3pm and once again rose to the occasion when
he declared: ‘Advance Britannia. Long live the cause of freedom. God save the King.’
Nine weeks later he was no longer Prime Minister.
Events marking the defeat of Germany were mainly ones of thanksgiving, the outstanding feature
of which was the seemly behaviour of everyone. Some people had a little more liquor than they could
carry, but in every instance their behaviour was without reproach. Nobody was arrested in Torbay for
Street parties were organised in several areas, but the council disappointed many when they
refused to lift the blackout, unlike in other Devon towns.
Beryl Cheeseborough and her sister, Jean, got dressed up for the VE Day street party in Hele,
mainly attended by women and children as most of the men were away, while schoolgirl Betty
Wyman was just happy to dance round a bonfire on Warren Hill for many hours.
‘We didn’t have a street party because food was still rationed and nobody had anything to spare,’
Six-year-old John Gibbings and his mother, Edith, attended a huge party in Belmont Park. ‘We
took our own tables and chairs. People brought what food they could and shared it out,’ says John
who now lives in Windsor Road. ‘We didn’t have any bananas. It was another five years before I saw
The day was celebrated with joy at the girls’ grammar school. Off came the muslin and out went
the school to mark the occasion with what was described as ‘suitable jollifications’ round the town.
Three weeks later pupils went to the Regal Cinema to see Goodbye Mr Chips as a victory treat.
In a more solemn vein, the whole school later marched in procession to Upton Church for a
The Sunday after VE Day another special thanksgiving service was held at St Mary Magdalene
Church, Upton. Hundreds of children were packed in so tightly they were made to sit two at a time in
one adult seat.
Torquay rightly celebrated the end of the first part of a great struggle, but for many residents there
was still the knowledge that their menfolk were away fighting the Japanese. VJ Day was three months
The Funk Hole Myth is only available by emailing David at DScottTorq@aol.com or by leaving a
message on 07802786684.