An American in London on ‘VE Day’

A rare sight indeed - the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with two Messerschmitt Bf 109s at the 1995 Fighter Meet at North Weald.

A rare sight indeed – the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with two Messerschmitt Bf 109s at the 1995 Fighter Meet at North Weald.

I HAVE very fond memories of being in Hyde Park during VE celebrations along with around 20 friends. To say that a wonderfully festive atmosphere prevailed would certainly be an understatement. It didn’t matter if you had never met the person standing next to you before, you were instantly their friend. I was having the time of my life, and so were my friends.

It was a time when national pride was stronger than I had ever seen anywhere, at any time. So many people were waving British flags that it was nearly a sea of red, white and blue. You were proud to be among the people of Britain during this momentous time.

The catch is that this wasn’t 1945, but 1995! My friends and I – 21 Yanks in all – had flown over to England for the 50th anniversary celebrations of VE Day. We were in Hyde Park on Saturday May 6 for the British
Legion’s concert to celebrate the 50th. Our group of friends was a diverse one, with several of us born after the war, a couple of Pacific war veterans and a Korean War veteran in the mix. We were all Second World War aeroplane aficionados and history buffs. We weren’t about to miss this event of a lifetime, to be in England to mark the celebrations and commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.

The concert in Hyde Park was one of the highlights of our time in England. The camaraderie and high spirits shown by all were something that I have never experienced anywhere before or since. Several particularly moving memories from that fine evening come to mind. First, when the Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight made their flypasts I turned to watch the aircraft depart. My eyes fell on two young women
who were standing behind me. They couldn’t have been any older than 20 to 25, yet they were wiping tears from their eyes, having been so moved by the sight of the BBMF aircraft.

For my friend Richard Heck from Philadelphia, who was with B-29s out of Tinian, the selection of Glenn Miller music moved him to tears, for it brought back memories of friends who never made it back. But I think the most moving memory for me was when Dame Vera Lynn sang We’ll Meet Again. The crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder, were singing and swaying to the music. It was an atmosphere that no euphemism could ever describe. It was truly a grand time.

The VE celebrations also produced a sight that would have been unthinkable in 1945. While we were at the Fighter Meet Airshow at North Weald we were treated to the sight of the BBMF Lane, Spitfire and Hurricane flying in formation with two Messerschmitt Bf-109s! That’s an event that is not likely to be repeated.

Perhaps the brightest memory of our ten-day visit to the UK was when we met Battle of Britain pilot Group Captain Dennis Davis and his charming wife Margaret. We dined together one evening at the RAF Club in Piccadilly and have formed a lasting friendship. Our visit, and indeed one person in our group, had a particularly strong influence on Gp. Capt. David which has prompted him to write a book about his experiences. I can’t wait to read it when it comes out.

Being in England for the 50th anniversary celebrations ofVE Day in 1995 was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. This wasn’t my first visit to England, nor has it been my last, but it was the best visit (so far).

Chris Davies, Philadelphia, USA