VE Day: Memories of a Portsmouth street party

John Porter, now of Windsor Road, Waterlooville, recalls a VE Day street party in the heart of Portsmouth.

By Bob Hind
Friday, 8th May 2020, 7:00 am

Between Fourth Street and Fifth Street down as far as Beecham Road was completely flattened in the bombing that took place, Fifth Street had just ten houses each side and there were more houses down the end but most were badly damaged with roofs missing and all the windows blown out!

Nevertheless the people who managed to still live there organised a street party and some of us children who lived in St Mary’s Road were invited to join in.

It was quite exciting to see all the flags and bunting hung out across the road. Tables seemed loaded with cakes, jellies, and all manner of goodies. There were very few children who actually lived in the road and it soon became a grown-ups party. A bonfire was started on the waste ground and that became our centre of entertainment but we enjoyed our time with the thoughtful people that invited us.

Fifth Street from St Mary's Road in Portsmouth after the blitz of January 10, 1941.

The party that was the ‘arranged one’ was in Samuel Road, with tables and chairs as far as we could see! Mums did miracles with the food supply, we children helped carry things to the tables under dire consequences if we were caught with any free samples.

When we sat down to tea Mums were serving the food which probably prevented a free-for-all – certainly amongst the boys.

When we were all finished with tea the mums and dads said once we had cleared away everything we would play games. My friend Tony and I thought all the things left on the table would be wasted so Tony grabbed a very large oval type plate and we loaded it with everything that we could lay our hands on without being caught!

At the end of the street was a community air raid shelter and it was in here we put our plate of goodies.

After playing the usual games for some while a few of the adults edged their way down to the Castle Bannerman pub on the corner, we heard a piano being played and singing so we kids thought we would join in. We all sat with our backs against the air raid shelter which meant we were sat in the middle of the road, a man came out of the pub laughed at us and asked what we were singing?

Anything we said so this man who we knew to be Mr Taylor – or Spud to the grown-ups – got us singing Run, Rabbit, Run, then we started singing What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? (Spud was a three badge leading rate in the RN) we sang it a couple of times and then Spud started his own version of it we were laughing our heads off as Spud was doing all the action with a few naughty words and when he did all the actions of “bum tit bum” play the ukulele we all joined in at the top our voices.

It was a great party and an added bonus from the kids favourite Mr Spud Taylor – thanks for a great time and memories.

When things started to be getting back to normal after the war and the council was clearing up, two lorries and a great big wrecking ball crane came to knock down the air raid shelter. Before the workmen started they emptied the shelter of It contents on the pavement there was a cot, chairs, chamber pots, dozens of drinking cups and a load of dinner plates but stuck out like a beacon was the big oval plate that Tony and had put our ill-gotten gains on (we never did go back after the party to eat the food).

l said to Tony ‘that’s your mum’s plate, she will be really surprised to get it back after all this time’ at which Tony started laughing and said ‘it wasn’t my mum’s plate I pinched off another table!’