August 15 is the 75th anniversary of V J Day, the day when WW2 finally ended.

This was the day in 1945 when Imperial Japan surrendered. The Japanese government had already communicated on August 10 its intention to surrender under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration. This was not announced to the Japanese people by Emperor Hirohito until August 15, 1945.

The surrender document was not signed until September 2 1945 and that is the official V J Day in the United States of America. The document was signed in Tokyo Bay in Japan on board the USS Missouri. In Japan that day is officially known as “the day of mourning for the war dead and praying for peace”.

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced the good news with a radio broadcast at midnight on Tuesday August 14, but it was not announced until 8am on the 15th that that day and the following one were to be public holidays. This meant that many workers had already left their homes to go to work. They soon returned home!

Although not with quite the same exuberance as the V E Day celebrations on May 10, the people of High Wycombe and in the towns and villages around did hold street parties and other forms of celebration. At first the weather did not recognise the occasion with heavy rain in the morning on the Wednesday, but the sun came out in the afternoon.

The Bucks Free Press reported “There was jubilant ringing of church-bells and services of thanksgiving were well attended. Crowds danced and sang in the streets, with huge bonfires at night. Fireworks added to the general gaiety”.

High Wycombe town centre “was a pleasing blaze of colour, with the flags of all the Allies in great profusion. The Guildhall, municipal buildings, the Town Hall, and business premises were gaily decorated. The flag of St George fluttered proudly from the parish church tower, and at night all these buildings were floodlit. At night Wendover Way was illuminated with coloured fairy lamps and decorated with strings of small flags, thanks to the enterprise of the Borough Engineer and his staff”.

The High Street was closed to traffic “to facilitate listening to the music of the High Wycombe Furniture Industries band and music later relayed through loudspeaker equipment installed by Mr Norman Turner”.

Offenders against the law who appeared before the borough magistrates on the Wednesday were fortunate because “the magistrates tempered justice with great leniency on what the Chairman of the bench termed a “memorable morning”!

The licensing justices had granted an extension until midnight but “very few premises (ie pubs) remained open for long in the evening on account of shortage of supply and the big demand”.

One of the main aims of V J Day was “to encourage the intermingling of celebrations of the Americans (that is the servicemen and women of the Unites States Air Force who were stationed at Wycombe Abbey) and the townspeople of High Wycombe”. Therefore the Abbey grounds were opened and people were allowed to wander about at will “and to peep into the Abbey itself”.

On the Rye at dusk an American band was playing dance music and promptly at 9.30pm the Mayor and General Larson Commanding Officer of USAAF lit the gigantic bonfire “to the accompaniment of a mighty cheer from the thousands of spectators”. The glow was so great that it could be seen from miles away, in Wooburn for example.

In Marlow “V J Day seemed to catch most people unawares .. and most of the shops and banks were open until mid-day” which by then “had a gay appearance, although not quite as gay as V E Day”. Prior to the thanksgiving service in the parish church the bells were rung for “518 changes of Holt’s tenth part of Grand Sire Tribles in honour of the occasion”.

Large bonfires seemed to be the predominant way of celebrating in the villages around Wycombe, including West Wycombe, Hazlemere, Tylers Green and Beaconsfield, where it was “at the crossroads”. An embellishment at Wooburn Green, where the huge bonfire could be seen from the Rye in Wycombe (and vice versa), and at Holmer Green, was the ceremonial burning of an effigy of a Japanese soldier.

The residents of Holtspur must have been planning their celebration for some time before the day, as not only did they have a bonfire forty feet high in the grounds of the King’s Head hotel, but also an open-air tea (with sugar !)for the children. This “consisted of cakes of pre-war design and substance, jam tarts, jellies, blancmanges, cucumber sandwiches and ice cream”. This was served to over 200 children, every one of whom was given half-a-crown (2s.6d. in old money) and a half-pint bottle of milk to mark the occasion.

On the Sharing Old Wycombe’s Photographs website there are not many photographs of the local VJ Day celebrations, so if any readers have any which they would be prepared to loan to us please contact me at or by phone 01628 525207.