A childhood memory of the Liberation

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By Ann Schreer (nee Shepard)

I was four when the war began and five when we were occupied by the Germans. I had certain memories of 'before the war" but basically the years from five to ten seemed just a way of life. We were all aware that we were going to be liberated a few weeks before we were. Curfews were not adhered to as before and people listened openly to their little wirelesses. We even used to have an escaped Russian prisoner of war openly coming to visit us from the house where he had been sheltered.

Royal Square broadcast

To school children just being told that there would be no school was enough to get us excited, and I remember standing in the Royal Square with my aunt and uncle and young cousin (Francis Pallot, his wife Winifred, née Shepard, and their son Christopher), when Winston Churchill's speech was broadcast to us. My parents were not there; they had gone to a thanksgiving service at our church.

After the speech my uncle hurried off home to raise the Union Jack and we followed shortly afterwards only to find that my uncle, having forgotten a key, could not get in to his house, so had broken a window. Thinking back, I wonder if I had been older if I would have had the faith that my elders had that we would win the war and it was just a case of when. I know that a bottle of some sort of drink, I think cherry brandy, had been kept for just such an occasion, as they were secure in the knowledge throughout all the dark years that the time would come when we would indeed celebrate, and so it was.

My undying memory was most certainly my tenth birthday, which was on 12 May, just three days after Liberation. A party had been planned weeks before; in spite of rationing my mother always managed a party for me. My friends duly came, and during the early evening, in perfect weather, we all went down to the Royal Square, my sister having been called upon to help keep us in order.

The Square was packed, I don't think there was anything particular happening, but the excitement during those early days was unprecedented and people gathered just to experience the joy of freedom to be able to gather and talk openly and to meet the troops who had arrived to liberate us.

We children had a fine time, going among the crowds and telling the servicemen that we were part of a birthday party. We were given chocolate, sweets, and even the odd two shilling piece. My mother and my sister went nearly spare trying to gather us all to bring us home. If one or two of us could be found they were told to stay put, only to disappear as soon as they were not being watched.

When we finally did get back home we all pooled our booty and shared the confectionery among us, before my guests went home.

Every year around Liberation Day I think of that party, nothing special, but oh so special.

My mother remembered that party for a very long time and swore that it would be my last one, as she had never been so exhausted in her life.  

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