V. J. Day, 15th August 1945, marked the day when the Second World War effectively came to an end as Japan surrendered and all hostilities ceased.
The Warwick County News, 18th August 1945, summarised local events with the headline “Neighbourly co-operation was the keynote of Solihull’s VJ-Day celebrations” and the observation that the day was marked by a “mood of quiet thanksgiving or in the exuberant relief of pent-up feelings according to age or nature.”
“Burleigh in Wartime” was the title written in February 1940 by Clara Milburn on the first page of a soft-backed exercise book. After five months of war she had decided to write a day-to-day account of how she and her small part of the English countryside faced the trials and tribulations of a country at war. Extracts from what turned out to be 15 such exercise books were published in 1979 as Mrs Milburn’s Diaries: an Englishwoman’s day-to-day reflections 1939-45.
During the Second World War Solihull Urban District experienced 358 air-raid warnings and 49 raids, with 41 people killed. 78 people were admitted to hospital with their injuries and 198 people with minor injuries were dealt with at First Aid posts.
Harold Thomas Lavender (1900-1953) was a Walsall-born businessman, who was Managing Director of Proctor & Lavender brick manufacturers and merchants. He was in partnership with Arthur Herbert Proctor until 1st May 1928, after which he continued the business alone, still trading as Proctor and Lavender. He lived in Dorridge and was elected to Warwickshire County Council in 1942 as the represent of Solihull First district.
This photograph shows Royal Navy crew members from H.M.S. Vivacious and members of the National Association of Local Government Officers (NALGO) who played a football match during the crew’s visit to Solihull in spring 1944. We think the sailors are on the right in the solid-coloured shirts and the NALGO union members are on the left in the light-sleeved tops, but do let us know if you have any further information. The man in the top hat is likely to be Councillor James Harold Malley (1891-1955), Chairman of Solihull Urban District Council 1943-45.
19th November 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the first fatal bombings in the Solihull Urban District Council area. In 1995, local residents recalled the event and described how a German bomber, on its way to attack Coventry, had been hit by a British gun, and in order to lighten its load, had dropped high explosive and incendiary bombs on Solihull on the evening of Tuesday 19th November 1940.
Solihull High Street was hit by three bombs. The first bomb fell on Winfield’s Chemists, on the corner of Poplar Road and the High Street. The second bomb fell on Fitter’s jewellers halfway up the High Street, and the third on Duddy’s wool shop, on the corner of Drury Lane. The adjacent White Cat café was also damaged, as was a classroom at Park Road C of E School (now St Alphege Infants School).
Duddy’s Wool Shop was too badly damaged to reopen on the site, so subsequently moved to Poplar Road, Solihull, where it was still in business in the early 1980s.
Tuesday 8th May 1945, Victory in Europe Day, saw much rejoicing as the fighting in Europe officially came to an end and some of the men held as prisoners of war started to return home. At 3pm on Monday 7th May Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the official announcement that the following two days would be public holidays. However, it’s clear from newspaper articles in the Warwick County News that people were very mindful that war with Japan was still ongoing. The newspaper summed up the local celebrations as:
“typical of others throughout the land where people had gathered together to give thanks that the nightmare of the last grey years was over, and, while remembering that men in far distant lands were still in danger of their lives, to enjoy the day that their individual effort had made particularly their own” (Warwick County News, 12th May 1945)