Kintyre residents remember VE Day 75 years on…

The Campbeltown Courier's front page on May 12 1945.
The Campbeltown Courier's front page on May 12 1945.

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Today (May 8) marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day), the day on which, in 1945, Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared the end of the six-year long Second World War.

At the time, the Courier reported ‘jubilant scenes in Campbeltown’ as people lined the streets in celebration of Germany’s surrender to Allied forces.

The May 12 edition reported: ‘The Navy gave the celebration signal. They provided the carnival atmosphere. With loud continuous hooting, blaring sirens, shrilling whistles rising in a mighty crescendo of sound through the valley of the bay, they stirred the town with great news.

‘Within minutes, from almost every window along the streets, flags began to flutter in the evening breeze. Even the most modest homes had large Union Jacks flying from their windows. Across the streets gay bunting and flags were strung from roof-top to roof-top, and the town soon presented a joyous festival appearance.

‘But it was at the harbour that the scenes of jubilation and carnival were to be witnessed. Verey lights were fired. It was a dazzling spectacle to watch the multi-coloured lights shoot up into the sky and break into the different colours.’

One Campbeltown resident who remembers the war years as well as VE Day itself is Anna Viola.

Anna, who is now 92, said: ‘On VE night, everybody in the town as out and about, round about the pier and all over the place.

‘That particular night me and my friends were down the prom and we heard all the clapping and noises and music, and we thought there must be a dance on or something.

‘When we started coming up the prom we saw all the crowds of people and everybody celebrating, out on foot, hugging, saying that the war was over. Everybody gathered on Main Street and up at the cross. It was a good night for us.’

During the war, Anna remembers being invited onto ships and submarines, and she recalls viewing the town through the periscope of one submarine.

‘They were good days for us although it was wartime,’ she reflected. ‘But everyone was so happy when the war was over.’

Anna’s father, James Muir, was in army in the First World War during which he was gassed. Anna said that afterwards he had lung problems, but his injuries did not stop him from volunteering to join the Navy during the Second World War.

‘He was in the Navy for quite a few years before the ship he was on got torpedoed,’ she said. ‘Most of the men who worked up on the deck got into the little rowing boats. Him and another two men worked down below as firemen; by the time they got up on deck the boats were all over the side and into the water.’

Anna said her father had no sooner made it into one of the boats than it capsized.

‘They were in the water for ages before they were picked up,’ she added. ‘Dad was taken to a naval hospital and he was kept there for quite a long time before he was discharged as medically unfit. He was ill when he got home, and he died a while after.

‘At the time, when the war was over, it was thought of as a smashing night but it wasn’t really for everybody. There were happy times, but at other times it was quite sad.’

The date of VE Day stands out in Campbeltown resident Annie Grumoli’s mind for more than one reason – it was the day her 19-year-old sister Jeanie got married.

‘She got married on VE Day in Glasgow,’ said Annie, who was aged 17 at the time. ‘We all went to Glasgow for the wedding.

‘I was quite happy that the war was over for my sister. She met her husband at Machrihanish. He was a Glasgow boy and he was in the Fleet Air Arm.’

Annie remembers asking her father, who fought in both the First World War and the Second World War, what would happen to the family when it was announced that Britain was at war.

‘I was only eight or nine at the time,’ she said. ‘My father told me not to worry about it, and said if I saw a tank coming up the street that’s when I could worry.’

Annie was born at Machrihanish but lived in Glasgow until she was 13, at which point she returned to Campbeltown where she has lived since.

She added: ‘I remember the Clydebank disaster as well, but when you’re young like that you don’t take it all in. It was a complete mix-up, the war, so I was quite pleased when it was all finished.

‘Mind you, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my teenage years at the dances in Campbeltown. It was always quite a safe place to be.’

Fellow Campbeltown resident Rita Lawson said she doesn’t have any specific memories of VE Day itself but she remembers watching her father board a ship berthed at the pier along with all the other men heading off to fight when the war began.

She also recalls some of the events which happened afterwards.

‘I can remember going up to the Mill Dam to wait for a bus that was bringing back the prisoners of war,’ she said. ‘I would have been about 14 at the time.

‘My uncle Jack had been a prisoner in Germany. He was tall man and I remember my mum saying how thin he looked. A big crowd went up to welcome them back.’