Historian Ian Scott looks back on VE Day in Falkirk district

Looking back to 1945

By Ian Scott
Friday, 8th May 2020, 7:30 am
Updated Friday, 8th May 2020, 9:05 am
Winston Churchill's VE Day broadcast.
Winston Churchill's VE Day broadcast.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the ending of the war in Europe – VE DAY, 8th May, 1945.

After nearly six years of strife the peace returned at last and the war-weary people of the nation celebrated the good news, even if their rejoicing was “restrained” as a Herald correspondent observed.

This was understandable, since the war in the Far East had some months still to run and the people of Falkirk district faced the stark fact that over 1000 men and women whose names appear on our war memorials would not be returning to their families. But there were celebrations.

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Following the broadcasts by King George and Winston Churchill, which were relayed from loudspeakers at the steeple, the crowds swelled and flags and bunting appeared on houses and shops.

The steeple bell chimed continuously and the Parish Church played a series of hymns on Robert Dollar’s famous 13 bells.

Alexander’s Bus Company Pipe Band proceeded up the High Street followed by large crowds and the music was supplemented by “a trio of drunks singing their hearts out in the shadow of the steeple”.

One over critical observer thought that “their voices accord ill with the music of the peace bells”. 
In the evening many churches across the district held special services and, out of doors, the occasional bonfire was lit, including one in Grangemouth reportedly fuelled by large quantities of blackout material, mercifully no longer required.

As the days passed thoughts turned to the welcome home arrangements for the servicemen and women with parties and other special events high on the agenda.

The members of the special committee formed to honour those returning found themselves in some difficulty as the following letter sent to each man and women testifies: “We have been endeavouring to arrange a suitable form of entertainment but this has proved impossible because of catering and other difficulties.”

The letter concluded: “I enclose a card of felicitation and a gift of £1 which it is hoped you will accept as a token of the Citizens’ appreciation of the service rendered by you.”

Even though £1 is probably worth about £50 today it still seems a bit stingy but I suppose times were difficult.

As the years passed our towns and villages arranged to add the names of the World War II fallen to the existing memorials where that was possible.

Bonnybridge created a beautiful new wrought iron gate but in Falkirk the decision remained that no names should appear, only the statement; “On the sea, in earth’s distant places and in the air nearly 220 men and women of Falkirk died for their country in the cause of righteousness.”

Following last year’s War Memorial project we now know the figure should have been a staggering 463 so it makes you wonder just how accurate the figures on other memorials are.

This week the Maddison and Rumford Local History group have published the second volume of David Leask’s “No More Forgotten Heroes”, covering those who died from Muiravonside Parish.

It was a tricky task because the names appear on three different memorials – in Polmont and Avonbridge as well as Muiravonside.

David has researched each of the 40 men and has included extracts from their Falkirk Herald obituaries as well as photos and family details.

It is an excellent addition to our knowledge of the conflict as it affected our area and an interesting contrast with David’s first volume covering 1914-18.

The book also includes details of the Military Cemeteries where the men are buried.

It is available from the History Group or by contacting David on 01324 715634 or by email [email protected]