VJ DAY was the day on which Japan surrendered in the Second World War, it fell on Wednesday August 15, 1945, after the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Many Reading residents may well have been asleep (due to the time difference), when, at the stroke of midnight, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced on BBC radio the war in the far east was over, bringing hostilities to an end.

The Mayor of Reading, Alderman Newham, spoke directly to the townspeople of the borough, saying: “The historic day for which we have worked and prayed for so many years has now become an established fact.”

Local people soon took to the streets to rejoice, releasing the pent-up feelings of six years of war.

The Mercury described the events of that night as a ‘noisy throng’ which was conducted in good spirits with only minor incidents of hooliganism.

Great Western Railway’s engines blew their whistles at Reading Station during the night and the main entrance was soon bedecked with all the flags of allied nations.

By the next evening this hastily erected display was floodlit and included the message ‘Victorious Allies’.

Many local street hawkers cannily started selling small hand flags at ‘sky-high prices’ to revellers and numerous pubs and off licences quickly ran out of beer.

Music filled the air in the town centre on ‘VJ night’, with a varied collection of instruments having been dragged out of dusty cupboards including bugles, accordians, rattles and the odd piano.

Fireworks were lit and a bonfire started in the middle of Broad Street with an effigy of ‘Tojo’ (Prime Minister of Japan) taking pride of place at the top.

During the next day, a more formal celebration of the acceptance of victory had begun, with the Mayor addressing the townsfolk near the Queen Victoria statue.

Thousands of people gathered in the Forbury Gardens to listen attentively to the King’s speech.

Street parties started in earnest that morning, with the best being held in Hosier Street, where free drinks and food were supplied by a generous benefactor, who also supplied a piano to accompany the community singing.

By the following weekend a ‘stand-down parade’ for the National Fire Service and an open-air service in the Forbury Gardens were held.

With no need for strict wartime censorship, the columns of the Mercury could start to tell the stories, left unreported at the time.

One such story was told of a Royal Navy officer from Theale who had been hailed a hero by the Admiralty.

Chief Petty officer Vernon Coles, had taken part in the famous Tirpitz midget submarine raid in Norway, but on his return found he had to walk the seven miles from Reading station to his home, because all public transport and taxi’s had closed down for the day.

The harsh treatment of POW’s (prisoners of war) by the Japanese was also being reported and a new ‘roll of honour’ could be published detailing those, who although captured, had survived an extremely brutal internment.

Many wartime related services were closing down and the Women’s Volunteer Service canteen, outside the railway station in Reading, finally served its last ‘cuppa’ to travellers.

A few articles started to appear in the following weeks highlighting the ‘normality’ of life around Berkshire, but the scars and trauma of returning servicemen would act as a harsh reminder of the sacrifices made by the whole nation and its allies.