VE Day brought ‘societal change’ in Falkirk and beyond

Flight Lt  is seated on the ground, wearing a life jacket at the right end of table
Flight Lt is seated on the ground, wearing a life jacket at the right end of table

While VE Day brought relief and joy to the people across Britain 70 years ago, events that had gone before could not be undone.

The end of the Second World War against Germany meant families could welcome home the soldiers – fathers, sons, brothers, husbands – who had survived the bloody battles.

For some, Victory in Europe Day meant only that. VE Day did not end the war as those fighting against the Japanese – who had a support pact with Hitler’s Germany – in Asia and the Southwest Pacific didn’t come home shortly after May 8, 1945.

The Allies had concentrated on defeating their enemy in Europe with the bulk of their men and resources before attention turned to finishing it against Imperial Japan.

Falkirk Provost Pat Reid’s father, who served in the signals was one man who didn’t return home to Falkirk until 1947 as he was stationed in Palestine.

Mr Reid also said the war’s end brought “societal change” due to the poverty-stricken conditions that were still here when soldiers returned from war.

The years before the war had seen a growing depression in the Falkirk district’s foundries as house building came to an almost standstill and unemployment had swelled as the clouds of war gathered.

During the conflict the local foundries and mills were turned into factories making parts for tanks, 25-pounder shells, hand grenades, incendiary bombs and munitions for mortars.

“I vaguely remember standing in our house and there was a man there who turned out to be my dad,” said the Provost, who was three-years-old on VE Day.

“Men came back changed. You have to remember they were away for a long time, seeing foreign lands, and those lucky enough to come back returned to the same austerity before they went to war.

“It broadened the horizons of men from small villages so the end of the war brought about a movement to improve conditions for people and brought about societal change for everyone.”

The many men who died fighting left behind loved ones mourning their loss, changing their lives forever.”

Joanne Mitchell from Falkirk, whose family lived in Burnhead Lane, never saw her husband, Flight Lieutenant Chenery Thomas, again just four days after their honeymoon.

She was working as a cashier at the Tudor House restaurant in the town when she met Chenery, who had been posted to Grangemouth.

The story is recorded in the Falkirk Archives at Callendar House. Archivist Jean Jamieson said: “In 1942 she and Chenery married and were somehow able to go on honeymoon to Switzerland even though the war was going in Europe on at the time.

“However, they were only able to spend four days there when Chenery was called back to duty. She never saw him again as he was killed on September 5, 1942. She remained in Blackpool and remarried several years later.”

Flight Lt Chenery was involved in the Battle of Dieppe and saved the life of Squadron Leader Duncan Smith who had a German fighter on his tail while attacking a German bomber which was about to bomb a British naval ship. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his brave actions.

He was killed while flying a Spitfire Mk IX, BS 150 after being attacked by three ME 109s and crashed out of control into the English Channel. His body was never recovered.