VE Day stories wanted for 75th anniversary

Ron Hetherington looking at how The Oban Times reported VE Day news in 1945.

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VE Day stories are being collected as part of plans to celebrate 75 years since the guns of the Second World War fell silent.

In time for the 2020 occasion, the Easdale branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) wants to create a legacy of recollections to be kept in the islands’ archives and to be used  by schoolchildren and others as a learning resource.

Ron Hetherington would like to hear from anyone in The Oban Times area so their stories of how they first discovered the war was over, or memories they heard from other family members and friends, can be saved forever.

He said: ‘It would be a nice way to remember how people learned the war was over. We’d like to hear how they got the information and how they celebrated.

‘We’ve already made a start collecting stories. One Seil woman remembers being sent off on her bike to tell her dad the news – he was working in the fields at the time.’

Sandy Sharp of Luing has also offered his father’s description of VE night in Brest harbour where he was berthed on the tug he was serving aboard.

‘Anyone with these personal recollections of VE Day will be 75 or over so it’s important we hear them now or they’ll be gone. This is information we need to keep,’ added Mr Hetherington.

Seil had an active Homeguard at the time and the Observer Corps  had a base on the island with a turret above Ellenabeich, while several women also worked as Land Army girls.

Unfortunately, the British Legion’s minute books for that time are missing, leaving Mr Hetherington puzzled as to what celebrations went on.

‘I really am appealing for people to get in touch and tell me what they know,’ he said.

Other plans for next year include a dance in Seil Island Hall on May 8 with a swing band when people will be invited to dress from the 1945 era to recreate the jubilation of the war ending.

Last year, the Easdale RBL branch raised £2,500 to help veterans’ charities and £1,599 was collected for PoppyScotland.

In the VE Day edition of The Oban Times was printed King George VI’s message to the people.

In its Latest News box it read: ‘As we go to press tonight earlier by 24 hours on account of the Victory Proclamation, Oban’s main streets and piers are alive with merry-makers, dancing and singing, while the ships’ sirens played their accompaniments. There were also numerous bonfires on surrounding heights. Even at the short time notice, private individuals and business firms had done their best, and the town presented a festive appearance. The services came to add to the rejoicings and their generous contributions of rockets and other fireworks, such as we have not seen heretofore, were the subject of wonder and admiration.’

If you have VE Day stories to share from Seil, Easdale and Luing, send them to Ron Hetherington, c/o The Slate Islands Heritage Trust Museum, 13A Ellenabeich, Oban, PA34 4RQ.