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A young Scottish Soldiers' letter home recollecting VE night 1945 in London

Updated: May 10, 2020

It is 8th May 1945 and a young serviceman from Glasgow finds himself in central London witnessing the VE day celebrations - the final hours of the War and the start of peace.

He had turned 18 at the end of December 1944 and had enlisted to join on 1st January 1945 signing papers in March 1944. He joined the Household Cavalry in the newly formed armoured division and was in training at Sandhurst. With the end of the war fast approaching in the early months of 45, he knew he was unlikely to face active duty in the conflict. He was destined to serve a further 3 post-war years in the military.

Despite the euphoria of the days events the letter is poignant in its acknowledgement of the sacrifices of the fallen comrades and calls on their remembrance. The young Soldier speaks about the presence in London that evening of men from across the British Isles - the Irish, Welsh & Scots: the Lancastrians, the Cornishmen and the various songs from all corners.

The Letter was eventually posted how to his Mother in Glasgow on the 13th May with the stamp post marked with the "Victory Bells."

A Transcript of the Letter:

What a night this has been. London has gone mad. Everywhere the crowds are surging, shouting, cheering and singing. Outside the Palace the crush is thickest. A door out to the balcony opens and a figure in naval uniform appears. It is the King. The shouting rises to a crescendo. Hats are flung into the air. Someone starts up "For he's a jolly good fellow." The cheering rises like an incoming tide and the crowd surge forward. For this we have waited 5 1/2 years for today the war ends.

In Piccadilly the crowds dance, sing and cheer. There are uniforms of every description but one seems to predominate. Everywhere there are the "cheese cutters" of the Brigade - fighting mad Irishmen, obstinate and dour but tonight carefree; men from oe'r the border - men from Lancashire, from Cornwall - Coldstream Grenadiers and let us not forget the gallant Welsh. Cries of "On the Brigade" fill the air. Tall guardsmen seize girls and swing into the Lambeth Walk; a ukuleles' strains come from a side road - another crowd singing "Oh Mr Woo" - bedlam reigns.

1 minute past 12 there is a terrific burst of cheering as floodlights and searchlights light the night. "It's over" is the shout - "Auld Lang Syne" - "I belong to Glesca" - "When Irish eyes are smiling"- "Men of Harlech" - they mingle as tears of gladness flow.

It is a night London will never forget. A great bonfire lights up Hyde park. A bearded naval officer starts the dancing - it's reels, Lambeth walks, Palais glides - it's wonderful. Faces glow with pride in the firelight. For as the great man said - "It is your victory" - yes it is everyone's victory - everyone has won the war.

It is impossible to put the emotions and feelings of this happy and victorious crowd on paper. But now "tis" the early hours of the morning and weary people sleep where they are. On seats, on door steps, anywhere. No one can get home.

We make our way to Waterloo - in every nook and cranny of the station tired out guardsmen sleep waiting for the first train to Woking - 7.30 am - for they must be on parade at 10 o'clock.

Yes it has been a wonderful night - one no one will forget - but it must never happen again - never must we let our brothers fight and die again for in the joy of victory one is apt to forget. But remember those who have payed the supreme sacrifice.

Let us leave London on VE night with our own thoughts and sympathies for those who have lost what they held most dear to them and let us offer prayers for their relatives and friends. "Lest we forget. Lest we forget."

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