VE-Day was, then as now, a public holiday and an excuse at last to put up the bunting and throw a street party. In Leeds, the scenes in the city centre were repeated five days later, when more than 2,000 people took the Lord Mayor’s salute at an official victory parade.
The faces in the pictures tell their own stories: of overwhelming relief but also of the pain of the previous five years and eight months; memories of those they had lost, and perhaps of those still at war in the far east.
The war had taken a terrible toll on Yorkshire’s cities. Sheffield, a major centre for armaments manufacture, was hit by two raids in December 1940, which left 750 dead and nearly 3,000 homes and shops in ruins.
The vital port city of Hull – referred to in censored news reports only as “a north-east town”, was badly hit in March and May 1941 and again in June, after the worst of the Blitz was thought to be over. Some 450 people were killed and 10 per cent of the population made homeless. Leeds and York were among the cities also blitzed.
Set against a struggle from which no-one had been left untouched, the release that victory had brought was palpable and public. But for those who had survived it, the hard years of austerity were still ahead.
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James Mitchinson, Editor