When a party on the street just is not big enough... Celebratory barge trip to Donny marked first VJ Day

When a party on the street just is not big enough... Celebratory barge trip to Donny marked first VJ Day

By Gareth Dennison | 10/08/2020

When a party on the street just is not big enough... Celebratory barge trip to Donny marked first VJ Day


IF STREET parties feel a little pedestrian for celebrating the end of war, how about holding a bash on a barge to Doncaster?

There had been roads packed with jubilant scenes across the nation when the Second World War ended in Europe in May 1945.

But the conflict in the Far East continued into August, when the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulted in the Japanese surrender.

US president Harry Trueman announced to crowds outside the White House in Washington DC on August 15: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor.”

In London, Prime Minister Clement Attlee confirmed the news in a broadcast, saying: “The last of our enemies is laid low.”

And the next day, George VI made an address, saying: “Our hearts are full to overflowing as are your own, yet there is not one of us who has experienced this terrible war who does not realise that we shall feel its inevitable consequences long after we have forgotten our rejoicing today.”

Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of VJ?Day.

In Rotherham, the rejoicing in 1945 included about 100 people of all ages on a celebratory trip to Hexthorpe Flatts, Doncaster.

Tony Dodsworth, of Rawmarsh and Parkgate Local History Group, found out plenty more details about the excursion — purely by chance.

He said: “A few years ago I was delivering a talk in Wickersley Parish Hall entitled The Home Front in the Second World War.

“The audience was largely made up of older local residents who, as I neared the end of the talk, were no doubt looking forward to a cup of tea and a biscuit.

“One of the last photos of the presentation was one of this barge ‘packed to the gunnels’ with Rotherham folk.

“Suddenly one of the audience leapt to his feet, very impressively considering his advanced age, and said to us all: ‘I’m on that barge, one of those young lads near the front’.

“He walked to the screen and pointed to himself. He said: ‘Some of my family are standing on the bank behind, watching the barge go by.’”

The man was John Marriott, of Wickersley, who proceeded to share with the parish hall audience his memories of the trip.

Tony said: “One of the great advantages of doing local history talks is that it quite often happens that someone in the audience knows more about part of the topic than you might, so you just have to listen and learn.

“As time goes on your knowledge and understanding of local history develops and grows.”

The barge set off early, John told the group, and everyone was in a very happy state of mind following the announcement of the end of the war — finally.

Tony said: “John remembered that those in charge of navigating the barge seemed particularly happy having, he thought, already imbibed of some liquid refreshment.

“Perhaps as a result of this, the trip itself took an inordinately long time. Slow progress was made through Kilnhurst, Mexborough and Conisbrough and hours later Hexthorpe Flatts was still not in sight.

“John’s recollection was that it was close to four o’clock when Hexthorpe was finally reached, hours behind schedule.

“Because so much time had elapsed in getting there it was not possible to make an extended stop there as planned but virtually everyone was desperate to go to the toilet so the barge emptied quickly to visit the public conveniences. Once all were back on board they set off on the return journey.

“The memory of the return journey had faded a little in John’s mind but he clearly remembered being stuck for some time in a lock at Kilnhurst where a policeman was holding a torch in the fading light.

“He leaned over the barge from the bank and said: ‘Are you the barge that left Rotherham early this morning? It has been reported as missing.’

“I am not sure if John considered it a good way to celebrate VJ Day looking back!

“Sadly just as the 75th anniversary of VJ Day approaches I heard that John had recently passed away. This memory at least will live on.”


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