ON Monday, May 7, at exactly 2.41am German General Jodl signed the unconditional surrender document which formally ended the Second World War in Europe.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was informed of this monumental event at 7am and he announced the end of the war in Europe with a speech broadcast from Downing Street.

Harwich, like all other towns across the country, erupted in spontaneous celebrations.

Starting quietly, unobtrusively and without any official lead, the celebrations grew to a crescendo in the evening of Tuesday, May 8, 1945, with parties filling the streets.

Organised in a matter of hours, food was spared from the meagre household rations which had seen the country through the dark days of war.

Halstead Gazette: JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945

Long time Harwich resident, Stan Delves, who retired in Southampton, was only 14 at the time, but remembers the end of hostilities well.

He said: “On VE Day in Dovercourt and its surrounding areas people organised street parties. The party in Grafton Road included the children from Fernlea Road, but Bathside and Harwich had their own parties.

“Tables and chairs were lined up in Grafton Road while children were wearing party hats.

“When it was Waddesdon Road’s turn to have the celebrations, my aunty Nell invited us up to their street party, so we were lucky to have two tea parties.

“It was like Christmas, people were singing and dancing and we even had Christmas crackers to pull.”

Halstead Gazette: Memories - Stan Delves was 14 when the victory was announced in EuropeMemories - Stan Delves was 14 when the victory was announced in Europe

Mr Delves, who is now 89, said one of the biggest parties took place at Bathside for the children of Harwich.

“The occasion was started in a happy style with a parade of all the children, many wearing fancy dress costumes and paper hats and carrying noisy instruments,” he said.

Shops stayed open, tin-can bands appeared on street corners and a stream of people rejoiced and gave thanks inside the town’s churches.

Harwich stalwart Betty Holbrook was 15 when VE Day was announced.

The 90-year-old, of St Helens Green, Harwich, said she was working with her father, who was a butcher, during the war.

Halstead Gazette: JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945

She added: “We had street parties everywhere. All the crested tables were out in the roads and all the children were sitting around them.

“Everybody was singing and dancing, it was wonderful.

“And even if nobody had money in those days, as we were still on rationing, we still managed to put together a party for everyone.

“People came together and brought whatever they had at home in their cupboards.”

Hundreds of people danced into the evening until the black-out reminded residents Harwich was still officially at least holding the line. During the six years of war, Harwich was a frontline town, under attack from the air and with an enemy presence all too obvious out at sea.

Halstead Gazette: JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945JOYFUL CELEBRATIONS: VE Day Party in Third Avenue, Dovercourt, 1945

In nearby rural Manningtree, residents also rejoiced at VE Day.

Gill Cary, of Colchester Road, Lawford, who was born in 1937 was only eight years old at the time but clearly remembers the big party at Mistley Place.

Now 83, Gill said: “All the children of my age were all dressed up in whatever nice costumes our parents could find.

“We had games and tea party and that’s how we celebrated in the afternoon.

“I will always remember we had chocolate finger biscuits, like a bun, chocolate coloured with icing. “It was a special treat, because children didn’t have things like that back then.”

Mrs Cary, who at the time lived in Railway Street, Manningtree, recalls having an air raid shelter in her garden and one inside of her house.

She said she was lucky during the Second World War, because both her parents were with her and her younger brother.

Halstead Gazette: Tea party - Colchester Road, Lawford party celebrating the end of Second World WarTea party - Colchester Road, Lawford party celebrating the end of Second World War

“My father worked at the plastics factory where they made plastic for the aeroplanes, so he was exempt from going to war,” she added.

“My mother looked after my brother and I and she also housed one or two soldiers, because back then, if you had enough room you had to take them in and help them.

“I don’t ever remember being afraid during the war although you could see doodlebugs going past.”

She remembers the air raids while they were at school.

“We had an air raid shelter in the playground of the school and when the sirens went, we had to troop with our cushions - which we took to school to sit on - and wait in the shelter.

“I still remember, when we went anywhere, we had to take our gas masks with us. The older children had a flap on the front, but babies had a big box one.

“But you don’t see the fear as you see it when you get older. I was never afraid.”

Mrs Cary said there was another VE Day party in Colchester Road, Lawford, where her husband, Ivan Cary celebrated the victory with his childhood friends.

Halstead Gazette: Tea party - Colchester Road, Lawford party celebrating the end of WW2Tea party - Colchester Road, Lawford party celebrating the end of WW2

For more information about historic events visit harwichanddovercourt.co.uk/the-war-years.