'Singing and dancing went on into the early hours' - How Wakefield celebrated VE Day

From partying into the night to completing chores, two Wakefield residents discuss their memories of VE Day, 75 years on.

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 10:47 am
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 10:48 am

Norman Hazell, former mayor of Wakefield

A former mayor of Wakefield has spoken of his memories of VE Day, recalling singing and dancing “into the early hours”.

Norman Hazell, who served as mayor in 2000/1, was living in Eastmoor and just 13 years old when the war came to an end.

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John Mountain, top left, shares his memories of VE Day for the 75th anniversary.

He said: “We were so excited, we’d known it was coming for days and we were waiting for the announcement.

“I lived on the Eastmoor estate with my brothers and sister, Dad had served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in The Great War and now owned a shop on Kirkgate, while Mum kept home fires burning.

“It rained heavily in the morning, but stopped later so that everyone could enjoy the bonfire in the evening.

“This took place on a large patch of waste land in centre of the city left and followed a street party.

“It was enjoyed by masses of children while parents stood chatting on the grass verges.”

And the community even came together for a twist on the traditional bonfire - by dressing up a tailor’s dummy as Hitler.

Mr Hazell said: “We were thrilled to be told the body of Hitler had been found in Wakefield and therefore we had been given the job of disposing of it.

“After a roll of drums, the body of Herr Hitler was taken out of the hearse. And thrown onto the fire.

“We then returned home, tired but very happy, while ‘grown ups’ made their way to Wood Street, where dancing and singing went on long into the early hours.”

John Mountain, veteran

War veteran John Mountain has told the story of how he escaped a Prisoner of War camp and fled through the Swiss mountains on foot - only to spend VE Day in detention doing chores.

Mr Mountain, who celebrated his 100th birthday last month, was captured in the Libyan desert in 1942, after 500 of his 800-strong unit were killed.

He was transported to a Prisoner of War camp at the foot of the Dolomites in Northern Italy, but escaped the following September and fled on foot.

After an arduous journey, he returned to England in 1944, where he was granted six weeks’ leave to reunite with his wife, Nora.

He said: “I got home to my wife who I hadn’t seen for three-and-a-half years.”

But it was a later unauthorised trip home, which landed Mr Mountain in bother.

He said: “On VE Day, May 8, 1945 I was confined to the camp for coming home unauthorised.

“I was at home when I should’ve been in camp on church parade. I was given a seven-day confined to camp sentence.

“On VE Day, the actual day, I was doing cookhouse chores – cleaning tables, pots and pans.”

You can read more about John's remarkable story here.