Dr Robb Robinson

How Hull celebrated VE Day in 1945

Dr Robb Robinson, honorary research fellow at the Blaydes Maritime Centre at the University of Hull, shares the historical record of how Hull celebrated VE Day in May 1945:

This year marks 75 years since VE Day.

The celebrations in May 1945 not only lit up the whole country, but were an especially feverish reason for rejoicing in Hull, a place which had been hit worse than any other provincial British city during the German air raids.

Even today, many of Hull’s older generation still remember the excitement and events that gripped all and sundry on that now distant weekend - not least the parade of thousands of Hull school children bedecked in all forms of fancy dress, or the dancing in the parks and the countless numbers of street parties held across the city and the East Riding.

Hull’s VE Day celebrations were actually held over a number of days in the city centre and beyond. There was a huge event on the Saturday which involved marching past a hurriedly erected podium outside of the Ferens Art Gallery.

Thousands of men and women marched past that day including those who had played their part on either active service abroad or in fighting the vicious effects of the blitz on the city and its inhabitants.

This was followed the next day by a Service of Thanksgiving held at Holy Trinity Church. All the city’s key players and organisations were involved in the celebrations, not least the academics from University College Hull.

A remarkable film was made at the time of the events surrounding the VE celebrations in Hull and Alvar Lidell, the famous war-time BBC announcer, provided the commentary.

The film, now in the Yorkshire Film Archive collection, is a unique piece of social history and provides an astonishing glimpse of the war-ravaged city on that celebratory weekend.

In the film you can not only see thousands of Hull people marching or gathering against a backdrop of damaged buildings and bombsites, and enthusiastically celebrating victory after more than five and a half years of total war, but you also see representatives of Hull’s key institutions, not least the University College staff playing their part in the weekend’s events: then, as now, an essential anchor of for this unique port city through times both turbulent and tranquil.

Interesting also that some of the streets shown in the film were used once again to portray VE Day Celebrations – this time London’s – in the 2015 film ‘A Royal Night Out’.

See the film here.

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