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After V E Day

The first days of peace whizzed by: adapting work schedules, newsreels (no tv), and Japanese conflict. Atomic bombs were terrifying, but 15th August became VJ Day. 

Let me start with the lead photograph known as 'The gang' - 1949, the year of 21st birthdays: I am third from right, back row, and Derrick (we married in 1954) is on the far right, front row. Most have kept in touch through the years, four, including Derrick, played for their school Rugby Team. Sadly, only one, possibly two, of the lads are still with us but, as far as I know, most of the girls have survived.

The General Election on 5th July was quickly organised but I was surprised that Churchill was out of No. 10. Dad said he was a brilliant wartime leader but no good in peace. However, we had our own conflict between demobbed manager and lady who had held the fort! I moved to another agency.

The real fun was in the streets

Trestle tables groaned under weight of pooled rations and I carried my music case around London's battered streets, hoping equally battered pianos were playable, but songs were belted out with such gusto it didn't matter.

 After V E day

1951, L-R, Newly-wed Per & Hildur, Me, our mutual Scottish friend Helen, and an office colleague, at the Festival of Britain, Battersea.

In 1946 UNESCO asked for pen-friends for teenagers in Europe. Per Haga in Oslo and fiance, Hildur, became friends for life. Sadly they have passed away but our daughters exchange calendars at Christmas, so threads have not broken. Also that year I answered an appeal to help form a concert party, becoming pianist and secretary.

With clothing rationed the producer's wife hunted parachutes to dye. My friendship with the family, now in Australia, is still strong. We provided variety shows, pantomimes, one-act plays, and I was asked to accompany entrants in talent shows. No competition for 'Britain's Got Talent' but great fun, except the night when six tenors achieved 'nil points' with six versions of 'Come Back to Sorrento'.

The audience decided 'enough!'

In 1947 we battled the freeze with brown paper pinned around desks and were permitted to wear trousers 'for the duration'. In November we cheered lovely Princess Elizabeth when she married her handsome Prince - Philip of Greece, and 1949 was a happy personal year; 21st birthday parties, 'Coming of Age' day at the time - and I met my future husband.

Newly demobbed, he had plans to back-pack, and worked a stint in a Swedish lumber camp 

After V E Day

Norway - 1949, Per snapped the view down steep mountains to the valley of Rjukan, where the Milorg Resistance Movement prevented the development of heavy water to make atomic bombs, as roughly portrayed in film 'The Heroes of Telemark'

For the first time I went abroad, sailing along Oslo Fjord to meet my pen-friends and fall in love with their beautiful country and its people. One highlight was a trip to Rjukan heavy-water Plant, where Nazi attempts to create atomic bombs were thwarted - the truth quite different to the film.

That year I switched from advertising to publishing

Woman's Own Beauty Department was interesting; readers' letters, demonstrations on cosmetics, but my dream job - secretary to Editor of Home Notes and Modern Woman, was even better. Sometimes I might see a new play or film and write a critique. When I signed a pay slip for one guinea I had no idea that the young man modelling a cricket pullover would become much richer, but Roger Moore made a charming James Bond.

After V E Day

Highwayman - 1951, Local concert party in pageant as part of Festival of Britain celebrations. I am being carried away by highwayman holding up stage coach. Crinoline was a hired original gown with a lethal metal hoop. Don't know why photographer (from local paper) asked me to smile! It was not so comfortable without a side-saddle.

The Festival of Britain was celebrated throughout 1951; and our concert party performed in a pageant around a once-stately home

Enthusiastic scouts battled Vikings into the moat and I loved rehearsing Shakespeare's stirring speech as Queen Elizabeth riding side-saddle at Tilbury. However, we had dancers and everything changed so they could float around to gentle strains of Greensleeves, before a highwayman dragged me from a carriage, stole my jewels and hauled me up onto his horse.

My rescue was not exactly elegant as the metal hoop of the hired crinoline cut into my leg, but we were cheered as he was led to Tyburn (Marble Arch). After Per and Hildur married in 1951, they spent their honeymoon with us and another dear friend, Helen, in Edinburgh. They all came to our pageant and admired the Festival Hall and Battersea with its stunning mix of events and illuminations.

The following year I shed tears at the cortege of King George VI, but the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 was magnificent and he would be proud that his daughter will soon be the longest reigning Monarch

1954 was the best year of all, when I married my soul-mate. Just before rationing ended we had enough ingredients for our wedding cake, were happy in two rooms, and first small house, but with two children moved to Hampshire, a decision never regretted.

After V E Day

Drama Festival - 1948, Because of clothes rationing, my 'Wedding dress' was made from parachute silk, as was the bridesmaid's dress, which was dyed.

Music is my hobby and I loved my years with a theatre group, now called the Waterside Theatre Company. Mainly I was a pianist, sometimes acting, Front-of-House, anything useful! Retirement gives me more time to write - six novels published.

Now alone, I live next door to my daughter, am blessed with five grand-children and good friends so - what is that word? Boredom! Never heard of it!

Readers 'of a certain age' will share these memories, so my thanks go to Oapschat for the opportunity.

NB: 'Janey's War', my first published novel, is not a biography, but contains some of the incidents mentioned in my article, 'Before VE Day' and should be available on Kindle any day now.

Meet The Author...
Barbara Murphy
Who Am I?

WWII completely changed my life, along with many others. Instead of preparing for grammar school in 1939, I sailed down the Thames on a paddle steamer, to Norfolk. Eleven years of age, my thoughts were on education and piano lessons, both disrupted. However, my time in Norfolk was happy.

The next six years were certainly a 'rite of passage', but I was lucky enough to survive in one piece, complete a secretarial course at Evening Classes (and Sunday mornings) and have an interesting career in advertising and publishing before moving to Hampshire with my family and writing novels.

The first of my six published novels, 'Janey's War', should soon be reprinted on Kindle. It is not a biography but some of the incidents happened to me or people I knew. It was great fun when Radio Solent invited me to their 70th Anniversary of VE Day party. Thanks also to Oapschat for asking me to contribute.

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