Johnstone History Museum
Johnstone History Society • Scotland

VE Day In Johnstone
VE Day

The war in Europe ended when the military surrender of Germany was first signed on Monday, May 7, 1945 but a slightly modified document with the final terms was signed on Tuesday, May 8, 1945, the day becoming known as VE Day signifying Victory in Europe.

Johnstone, like everywhere else celebrated VE Day on the Monday, May 7, 1945 as mentioned in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, Saturday, 12 May 1945 - The bonfire at Johnstone Castle Policies on Monday night (7 May) was a fitting climax to the opening of the celebrations. The glare illuminated the surroundings for quite a distance and it was with much boisterousness that the soldiers witnessed an effigy of Hitler being consumed by the flames. Throughout the evening crowds gathered in the streets and scenes of animation all over the town were heightened as the night advanced.

Following Mr Churchill’s speech on Tuesday, when the official declaration was made, the church bells rang out, and that was the signal for the official celebrations. The B.B. Band marched from Young’s Filling Station through the town playing stirring music ; from the Thorn the Johnstone Pipe Band made its way to the centre of the town ; and the Prize Silver Band rendered a programme of music at the bandstand. In the evening there were services in all the churches. Fortunately the weather was mild, enabling the rejoicings to be carried through under congenial conditions, and thus resulted in a large crowd attending the dance in the Public Park at night-time. It was after one o’clock when the happy throng wended their way homewards. There was also dancing in the Town Hall. The exterior of the hall was gaily decorated and the coloured lights added to the spectacle. In the matter of street decoration one of the best displays for a side street was Rankine Street where the residents excelled themselves.

There was a special service in the High Church on Wednesday forenoon for adults, and in the West Church a service was held for the various youth movements and young people generally.

The soldiers witnessing the events at the Castle Policies were the POW Camp guards and staff. One local man who went to the Castle on VE Day for the large party which was taking place outside the wire of the POW Camp on the evening of Monday 7th, remembered some men from the Thorn had managed to get a piano there. German POWs stood in silence looking through the wire wondering what was going on.

Only weeks before a warning to citizens was placed in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, Saturday, 17 March 1945 stating that “A warning has been issued to citizens who have been making a practice of visiting the Johnstone Castle Policies and trespassing on the grounds. This has been causing considerable inconvenience to those who are looking after the surroundings ; and it is intimated that in future anyone entering the Policies will do so at their own risk. If they escape that risk and are found by the police, action will be taken against them.” Due to wartime restrictions, the details of those “looking after the surroundings” were not printed, but referred to the camp staff looking after the Prisoner of War Camp.

Members of the civilian population from the town had been visiting the POW Camp and passing gifts through the wire to the prisoners and receiving gifts in exchange. It was quite widespread, the Germans making toys and other gifts including painting small portraits from photos provided. It was clearly a major headache for the camp authorities who were anxious to maintain the security of the camp and were trying to stamp the practice out.

Now the war was over, the POWs were allowed out and “open” fraternisation occurred.