for the future - uncertainty on the front page of the Express
& Star after the dropping of the first atomic bomb.
rest of Britain, the joyous populations of town's and cities
across the West Midlands, including Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham
went mad thronging the streets in May to celebrate VE-Day - marking
the historic event with those now legendary street parties across
The people were
letting their hair down in the typical British fashion of the times
following the hard won victory which left great swathes of our cities
lying in ruins.And a few months later, on August 15, VJ-Day - Victory
over Japan - was marked in Wolverhampton with crowds thronging Queen
Square until the early hours.
in dressing gowns and pyjamas left their beds and gathered in the
town centre to hear the Prime Minister's midnight victory broadcast.
Streams of people
converged on the area by foot, cycle and car and many vehicles had
to be diverted.
in the proceedings, Prince Albert's statue had a number of live
companions on his bronze mount.
victory and fairy lights in red, white and blue, put up by the corporation,
were switched on and sirens, church bells and car horns echoed the
victory news across the town.
gather for a VE Day party in Kent Road, Friar Park, Wednesbury in
sang the Hokey-Cokey and did the Conga round the streets.
One woman lifted
her baby high above the heads of the crowd during the excitement.
But the VE-Day
celebrations were tempered as the appalling evidence began emerge
from liberated concentration camps in Germany of emaciated bodies
and scraps, of humanity cowering behind the barbed wire at Belsen,
Buchenwald and other "Final Solution" compounds.
And right up
to his suicide in a Berlin bunker, Hitler was still blaming everything
on a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy.
British writer, J B Priestley,
spoke at Wolverhampton in June in support of Jennie Lee, the Cannock
Labour candidate on the run-up to the General Election. In his speech
he accused the Conservatives of "carting Churchill around the country
because they have nothing else to cart." In the event, the General
Election was a landslide victory for Labour that year.
in the West Midlands looked to Hollywood for fashion ideas during
the immediate post war period when cinemas drew massive crowds.
from Bilston to Birmingham were impressed by the "bonnet in bloom"
look designed in Hollywood. It was composed of layers of cocoa-brown
tulle swirl round the crown which completely covered the brim of
after the final surrender of German forces shocked Wednesfield residents
were experiencing a tragic reminder of the war years when a four-engined
Lancaster bomber was blown to pieces after crashing in Lichfield
Road in May, killing the crew of seven.
hurled four bricklayers working on the road some distance away to
the ground and pieces of the bomber were found strewn over a two
mile area. Not a single piece of the plane was left larger than
a table top and traffic between Wednesfield and Bloxwich had to
be diverted because the road was impassable.
described how firemen battled to put out a blaze in the wreckage
and it was found that a long stretch of hedge had been burnt to
the ground and the grass of a field burnt over a large area. There
were no signs of the plane's engines which were thought to have
been buried in a five foot deep crater in the road caused by the
the only damage to nearby houses was to the chimney pot of Moat
House Farm thought to have been knocked off by the doomed bomber.
One of the first
at the tragic scene was Express & Star driver, Joe Castree, who
described how he was handing a parcel of newspapers to a girl in
Stubby Lane, near the crash, when he heard the plane flying low
overhead. "It passed right over me," he said. "There seemed to be
two explosions in the air before the crash.
"I ran to the
spot immediately, but it was impossible for me to do anything and
there was just a lot of wreckage scattered over a wide area. There
were no signs of any members of the crew except fragmentary remains,"
he went on. "Bullets were exploding and flares were going off."
described how bullets were going off like a firework display. "The
plane seemed to come down in a swift vertical dive," the witness
An RAF inquiry
into the crash was immediately launched. The aircraft had come from
East Kirkby , Lincolnshire, on a routine training flight.
of the Japanese returns:
Sumatra, Jack Plant of Great Wyrley had been a prisoner-of-war of
the Japanese for nearly three years.
All around him,
comrades had weakened and died as they were used as slave labour
on a railway.
In August 1945
they were unaware that the atoms bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima
But the prisoners
noticed the Japanese camp commander was burning papers in his garden.
Suddenly, the rations increased:
to get two buckets of green slime to go with our ride in the evening
instead of one.
Then, on August
15, the senior British officer called his men together and announced
quietly and without emotion that the Japanese Emperor had broadcast
the capitulation; the war was over and we were free men. We were
not to kill any Japs or Koreans.
plentiful. The remains of some Red Cross parcels intended for us
but which had been looted with the guards came to light.
from home were found. It is testimony to our level-headedness that
no guards were seen off' by us then."
the half-starved Brits were shipped to hospital in Alexandra. Jack
Plant recalls: "beautiful nurses, beds with white linen, soap -
yes, soap - and free telegrams home. Will wonders never cease?"