Out for my daily exercise yesterday, I cycled over to Ashwell via the green bye-way known as the ‘Stret’, and then back to Shepreth, with wonderful warm sunny weather. I passed through several villages bedecked with bunting and flags, people sitting on deck chairs on their drives and front lawns, chatting from a distance to neighbours across fences. Interesting to see a plethora of Union Jacks out rather than the red and white English flag.
Returned home to read through my notes from the Cambridge Independent News from May 1945 to see how the end of the war in Europe was celebrated in the Cam valley. In Melbourn there was a joint service of all the local churches in the parish church, filled to capacity. Pride of place was given to returning POWs, Flight Sgt. Jim Palmer (RAF), L/Cpl. Fred Field, RE parachutist, and Pte. Arthur Wardock, Royal Scots regiment. Local members of the Home Guard, Red Cross and British legion were all present.
In the afternoon there was a street party for children at Portway organised by the council tenants. In the evening there was a huge bonfire in the field owned by Collis Palmer, a local farmer, where an effigy of Hitler was burned. Fire works were set off, some indiscriminately thrown about in the crowd.
On VJ Day, later in August following the end of the war against Japan, further celebrations were held in Melbourn, starting with a prolonged ringing of the church bells at 7am, various street festivities and a united church service. At 7.30 in the evening another large bonfire was lit at Collis Palmer’s meadow together with an ‘organised’ display of fireworks. Music and dancing took place in the High Street at Rose Inn corner with special lighting, lasting till midnight with as many as a thousand persons present. The news report added, all was quiet and orderly!
Between these two dates there had been a general election returning a Labour Government with a landslide majority and a Labour MP for Cambridgeshire for the first and only (?) time, overturning a Conservative majority of 8,000 by just 44 votes. This heralded a period of social reform and the creation of the NHS, which we have all been cheering on Thursday nights during the current Covid-19 lock down.
Might we turn our attention to our present social ills when the current crisis is over? The lock down has exposed the terrible problem faced by some women suffering physical abuse from their partners. More help and protection for them please. Better funding for the NHS and in particular for ‘public health’ administration – whose inadequacy has been so cruelly exposed by the pandemic. The reason for the severity of the lock down is that we did not have the capacity for nationwide testing and tracking in the early stages. Many of us had mild cold symptoms and are wondering was it Covid-19 or not? A government obsessed with Brexit has neglected so many areas where action is needed, in particular the crisis in social care for the elderly. This neglect has also been seen in the response to Covid-19 and the lack of PPE for care home staff.
If Brexit has divided us perhaps the Covid-19 crisis can unite us? A return to the spirit of 1945?