VE Day, 8th of May, 1945.
Reminiscences of a Country Lad.
I was born at Dunsfold in Surrey. I started in the 1st form[at GGS] in 1943, so my first three years were wartime ones. We had occasional visits to the air raid shelters which were beyond the girls’ tennis courts. I wonder if they are still there? Luckily no bombs fell on the school, although a V1 (doodlebug) did fall at the top of the hill going down into Godalming, but not during school time.
Coming from Dunsfold C of E school with only three classrooms (infants/juniors/seniors) was quite intimidating at first. Pupils from Godalming and Farncombe were much more streetwise than us!
On the 8th of May 1945, I was a month short of my 13th birthday. I was a choir boy at this time, but the church bells were un-ringable. In anticipation of victory in Europe, the “Dunsfold Bonfire Boys” were formed. They built an enormous bonfire on the Common and started a marching band, which consisted of two accordions, a big drum, and Me with my mouth organ! On VE day early evening, the procession assembled near the unlit bonfire, then marching down through the village, stopping off for about half an hour, at first the ‘ Bricklayers Arms’ and then ‘ The Sun Inn’. My friends and I being children obviously had to wait outside. It was here at ‘ The Sun’ that the older brother of one of my friends, who had recently been called up in the Army, came out of the Pub carrying an armful of bottles of Friary Brown Ale and gave them to us. So, on the 8th May this year, I will be celebrating two 75th anniversaries, VE Day and my first taste of beer. I remember them both well!
The march proceeded to Blacknest Farm (the home of Dickie & Ruth Nugent, later to be Lord & Lady Nugent of Guildford ) for further refreshment, before starting the long walk back, via the two pubs of course. By now it was dark and we were carrying flaming torches (sacking wired to the end of a pole, soaked in paraffin). Arriving back at the bonfire, it was then lit and soon became a tremendous inferno. There were no fireworks to be had in wartime, but a friendly farmer, who was in the Home Guard, gave us some ‘ rook scarers’ and ‘ thunder flashes’ which we delighted in setting off behind unsuspecting spectators.
The war in Europe was over but there was still time to build another bonfire for VJ Day later in the year. We then celebrated all over again, except that there was no beer for us this time. The Rector launched an appeal for the church bells to be recast and rehung and this was achieved by the end of 1946. Now there was only one old ringer of the pre-war era left and a small group of us were ‘press-ganged’ into learning to ring. But that’s another story.
Colin Conway – A Dunsfold resident from 1932 – 1953
[Can I assume that Hazel Freeston (née White) on your committee came from Dunsfold? If so, I was a friend of her older brother Brian. I expect that she and her twin sister will remember me. I watched the Queen’s wedding on TV in their house.]