VE Day: How Scots celebrated the end of the war in Europe

A large crowd gathers at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens to celebrate VE Day on May 8, 1945. PIC: TSPLA large crowd gathers at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens to celebrate VE Day on May 8, 1945. PIC: TSPL
A large crowd gathers at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens to celebrate VE Day on May 8, 1945. PIC: TSPL | jpimedia
From a "quiet joy" to dancing in the streets and burning an effigy of Hitler, celebrations to mark the end of the war in Europe in Scotland came in many guises.

The build up to the announcement of Victory in Europe on Tuesday May 8 1945 was tainted with "needless suspense and confusion" according to newspaper reports in Scotland given that the surrender of the Germans had already been announced on German radio the day before.

As the nation waited for official confirmation that the war was over, cautious celebrations were held in Edinburgh, with fires lit in the Cowgate and large numbers gathering in Princes Street. The announcement was coming, but it was not theirs yet.

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In a rainy capital, servicemen and women, factory workers and shop workers converged on the city centre with the American Red Cross Service Club in Princes St becoming a focal point.

Extra police were brought in to mind the growing crowd of thousands outside the club where chewing gum and sweets were thrown down on the masses from the balcony, while hats were tossed upwards in response.

From the same balcony, a marine led singing of songs such as Roll Out the Barrel and The Yanks are Coming and, in true American style, torn paper fluttered on to the crowds.

At nearby Register House, several soldiers and sailors climbed up onto the Duke of Wellington statue.

"For a time, a British soldier stood perilously balanced on the main of the horse and from this height tried to catch caps which were thrown at him," the report added.

Bunting and flags of many nations emboldened the streets. The Union Jack dominated but the Scottish Standard was also on show, along with the Stars and Stripes and the Flag of the Soviet Union.

A big party gathered near the Ross Fountain in Princes Gardens where a piper jollied the crowds playing eigthsome reels. Everybody joined in - including mothers with babies in their arms.

Meanwhile, children in High Street and Canongate took full advantage of permission to light bonfires, with a large pile lit close to the gates of Holyrood Palace.

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There had been talk of the city pubs staying open all night, but most were closed by 8pm given they had been drunk dry.

Over in Glasgow, it was recalled that the "entire city went a little mad" - but there was still little drinking on the street.

One resident, Tommy Mac, who was just 14 on VE day, earlier recalled: "I didn't see too many drunks, now that I think of it. There was no need. The spirits were lifted high enough as it was. It was quite wonderful to see all the men and women in uniform hugging, kissing and generally flirting with the civilian population."

"Schools were closed for the day. It was a day of celebration. I was 14 at the time and wanted to join these celebrations too, but not by myself. I looked around and took up with the nearest female at hand."

"She was an older girl, perhaps 16 o so. Still, she was to be my companion for the rest of the day. We made our way hand in hand from where we lived in the Cowcaddens part of the city in order to find the main celebration in George Square. Every street we went through was holding some party or another."

Service personnel of all nationalities crammed onto tramcars, with singing and dancing breaking out among those who followed them. . Sets of the Eightsome Reel broke out here, there and everywhere.

At Dunblane, the cathedral was floodlit for the first time in its 700-year-old history to mark the German surrender.

"The Union Jack floating from its staff underneath the steeple was also illuminated and the grave and beauty of the ancient building was striking revealed - a picture long to be remembered," report in the Stirling Observer said.

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At night in Stirling, a Victory Dance was held in Victory Hall, where streamers wrapped around the guests who "romped merrily till the early hours" to the rhythm of Tommy Cannon's Dance Band.

At 10.30pm, a big crowd gathered in the old cricket ground on New Road where a huge bonfire, with an effigy of Hitler on top, was lit.

In Inverness, church bells rang out for 20 minutes with The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders military band adding to the sense of occasion.

The Lord Provost of the Highland capital addressed the residents: "We have reached one of the supreme moments in human history. Never, in fact, has there been a moment like it before and pray God there will never be a moment like it again."

In Aberdeen, celebrations took on a muted tone with residents embracing the end of the war in Europe " in a spirit of thanksgiving and quiet joy" that rippled through the city, nearby towns and unfolding countryside.

Along the coast, fishing vessels sounded their whistles and at Peterhead, the maroons used for calling out the lifeboat crew were fired.Away from the coastal strip, bonfires blazed last night on many a hill.

Lord Provost Mitchell , speaking from the Town House, said: "We are happy at the thought that cruelty, destruction, suffering and slaughter in Europe have come to an end"

He added a note of solemnity given the number of homes where rejoicing would be impossible because "a father, a son or a brother has been given to pay the ultimate sacrifice."

But for many, on that day there was everything to live for.

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