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Haywards Heath VE Day celebrations

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Wednesday 16 May 1945




“The dreadful shadow of war has passed far from our hearths and homes in these islands” said the King in his broadcast to the nation and Empire on V. E. Day.

So for two whole days the people the country who had carried the burden, and faced the perils, of total war for nearly six years gave themselves up to celebration and thanksgiving. Germany had capitulated unconditionally. The Nazi menace had been obliterated. Now of the aggressor nations only Japan remained uncrushed, and terrible retribution was awaiting her. Mid-Sussex has not suffered in material destruction like some parts of England, but it has its scars, and no district has thrown itself into the war effort with greater devotion and sacrifice than has this loyal community. So when the news of Germany’s defeat was announced the pent-up feelings of years were released.

In the sun-lit streets, coloured riotously with the flags of the Allied Nations and red, white and blue bunting, the people, sporting patriotic rosettes and emblems, celebrated a wonderful victory, their victory. The Church bells rang out, and Mr. Churchill’s historic speech was broadcast from loud speakers. At night the revelry reached its height. Bonfires were alight everywhere; there was the welcome barrage of firework explosions; the streets were alive and noisy with gay, singing crowds. And between the celebrations there were solemn moments dedicated to thanksgiving when thoughts turned to the men and women who gave their lives that Britain might live.

In most places there were organised programmes. Here is how some of the Mid-Sussex towns and villages celebrated:



Quietly and with dignity Haywards Heath celebrated the total unconditional surrender of Germany on May 8. The town was gay with the flags of Great Britain, the British Dominions and our heroic Allies, the Soviet Union and the U.S.A. Churches of all denominations were open for private prayer, and special services of thanksgiving were also arranged. A service of an unusual nature was held


on the morning of V E-Day. Originally it had been intended that the Bishop of Lewes (The Rt. Rev. H. M. Hordern) should conduct a special Rogationtide service at the Market, but as he was unable to attend, Mr. K. C. Cattermole welcomed instead the Vicar of St. Richard's (the Rev. W. P. Wylie), who, amidst the lowing of cattle, conducted a short service of thanksgiving for the Victory, and offered prayers for the sick and suffering and those still fighting against Japan. This short but impressive service was brought to a fitting close by all present reciting the Lord's Prayer, the Blessing being pronounced by the Priest-in-charge of St. Wilfrid's (the Rev. A. H. Robinson). On VE-Night hundreds of people wended their way to Victoria Park, where a big bonfire was kept blazing. Every now and then rousers were let off. and the good-humoured crowd joined in the singing of popular songs. The bonfire was alight the next morning.


The Haywards Heath celebrations planned for VE Plus 1-Day (Wednesday) were somewhat marred by the weather, which made it necessary to curtail the sports which had been arranged to take place in Victoria Park, and unfortunately also it was not possible for a display of national folk dances to given by pupils of the Haywards Heath Senior School, or for the Sky Rockets Concert Party of Cuckfield to entertain the company. However, a limited number of races were run and cash prizes awarded to the winners before rain ended the proceedings. Mr. S. Eaten, of the Cuckfield U.D.C., and Mr. F. H. Rawling were the starters and carried out many other duties to ensure the success of the sports. The judges were Messrs. R. S. Burstow, F. Weller and Cecil and the Stewards Messrs. T. Bedchambers. H. Cattermole, E. E. Doughty and A. W. Thompsett. Assistance in the prize tent was given by Mrs. F. H. S. Rawling. Mrs. H. E. Taylor, formerly Chairman of the Cuckfield U.D.C. also rendered valuable assistance, and carried out the catering arrangements for the Haywards Heath Town Silver Prize Band, who under the baton of Bandmaster W. G. Bosley, played a lively selection of appropriate airs.


Topical music was also supplied by Mr. L. Law on his public address system. Others associated with the programme were Mr. B. Cahill, Mr. J. A. Evans and Mr. G. Hill (Hon. Secretary of the Haywards Heath and District Entertainments Committee), the general arrangements for the celebrations being in the hands the Cuckfield U.D.C., in conjunction with the Entertainments Committee. The high spot of the day's proceedings was a free dance at the Public Hall. Mr. Guy Austin presented a merry programme of records amplified from his public address system and the dances were nicely varied. Mr. George Hill (Hon. Secretary of the Haywards Heath and District Entertainments Committee) made an excellent Master of Ceremonies, and the Hall was crowded.


A very “bright spot” in the VE celebrations at Haywards Heath was provided by the illuminations at the Brighton County Borough Mental Hospital.,Besides the illuminated water tower bearing the triumphant words VE and surmounted with the flags of the four principal Allies, the pathway leading up to the main entrance of the Hospital was a blaze of light, provided by the coloured lights loaned from the Brighton Electricity Department and which before September, 1939, used to delight visitors to the Front of London-by-the-sea.” Another large VE, surmounted by the Union Jack, illuminated the main entrance of the Hospital. The arrangements for these illuminations were in the capable hands of Mr. R. Wellby (Engineer) and his assistant (Mr. H. Fothergill). On VE-Day the Chaplain (the Rev. Canon C. W. G. Wilson) conducted a service of thanksgiving, which was largely attended by the staff and patients. Other victory celebrations included a dance for the staff, and a concert was also arranged for the enjoyment the patients.


“I am quite sure that it must have been a source of considerable comfort and encouragement to all our fighting men and to the men and women oI the Auxiliary Services to feel that the mernbers of the Defence Services of this country were all at their posts ready and able to render aid and succour to those they left behind them should they fall victims to the enemy’s onslaught.”

Those words of praise were spoken Mr. L. Whittington. Chairman of the Cuckfield U.D.C., when speaking at a victory thanksgiving service in Victoria Park Haywards Heath, on Sunday afternoon. A military unit and members of the A.T.S. were on parade, and our civilian defenders were also well to the fore and received a special round of applause from the crowd. Wardens from Haywards Heath, Cuckfield and Lindfield, members of F.A. posts, decontamination squads, messengers, ambulance and rescue workers, members of the Royal Observer Corps, N.F.S.. the W.L.A. the W.V.S., Hospital Nurses, members of the B.R.C.S. (juniors and seniors), the Horne Guard, Police, Scouts, Guides, Army Cadets A.T.C., Fire Guards and the British Legion—were all present. Mr. Whittington told them “It is my privilege and duty, as Chairman of your Council, on behalf of all the inhabitants of our urban district, to pay


to all of you who have given your services at home during the past five-and-a-half years. By day or by night you were always there at your post to answer whatever call might come, whether near at hand or in other hard-pressed localities, to brave any dangers and undergo any hardships or discomforts. You have earned, and earned well, the gratitude of us all and now that, mercifully, the time has come when your services are no longer required, you may feel the great satisfaction of leaving behind you a job well done. Let us all go forward in a united effort to the great tasks of reconstruction which lie ahead, so that the terrible sacrifices which have been made shall not have been in vain. I offer you all our heartfelt thanks.”

The special service (which included the well-known hymns “Now thank we all our God” and Oh God our Help Ages Past was conducted by the Priest-in-charge of St. Wilfrid’s Church (the Rev. A. H. Robinson), prayers being said by the Vicar of St. Richard’s (the Rev. W. P. Wylie). In the course of short address Mr. Robinson said that without any self righteousness, he felt that the British people could claim that God had helped our victory, for Christian men and women had been fighting for liberty against tyranny, and undoubtedly liberty was


and we had enjoyed the honour being God’s instruments in the defeat of tyranny.

Following the service and the Chairman’s address, the company was inspected by Brigade r L. Bootle-Wilbraham, D.S.O., M.C., of the 437th- Infantry Brigade, who also took the salute at the final march-past after the National Anthem had been sung. Guests invited to attend on the platform included Mrs L. Whittington, Lieut.. Colonel M. T. Turner O.B.E. M. C., Officer Commanding the 13th Battalion Sussex Home Guard. Chief Commander Mrs. Ling, Sussex and Surrey Group A.T.S., Mrs. Kleinwort, East Sussex County W.V.S. Organiser, Mrs Simeon, Vice-President British Red Cross Society (Cuckfield and Haywards Heath Centre) and Major J. Ferguson, Chief Constable of Sussex, Regimental Sergeant Major J. Langley (Home Guard) took the parade. Appropriate musical selections were given by the Haywards Heath Town Silver Prize Band, conducted by Bandmaster W. Bosley. The arrangements for the parade were in the capable hands of Mr. L. H. Merry, Cuckfield U.D.C. A.R.P. Officer. Thanks to the enterprise of Mr. C. Andrews and Mr. E. V. Gough, of Sussex Road. Haywards Heath, the sums of 17s. 10d. were collected in aid of the Haywards Heath Hospital on VE-Day and 17s. for British Red Cross funds on VE Plus 1 Day. In Mr. Gough's shop window were German trophies of war, including a flag, Gestapo and German Home Guard Arm Bands, an Iron Cross, insignia of the Order of the Oak. etc., and they attracted much attention. They were kindly lent by Guardsman Collins. Gay music was relayed by Mr. Andrews. Appreciated assistance was rendered by Frank and Pauline Gough and a number of friends.

There are no available images of the Haywards Heath V.E. celebrations but the Mid Sussex Times did capture the Thanksgiving event in Burgess Hill



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