Friday 8th May 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) day, the end of World War II in Europe. In support of our incredible UK Armed Forces, Fujitsu Defence collaborated with SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, to run a VE Day 75 Art Competition. All money raised went directly to our military charity SSAFA to ensure they can continue to deliver vital support to those within the Armed Forces community during these unexpected times.
We were overwhelmed with the response. Over 153 entries were submitted, with our youngest entrant being just two years old and the oldest was 100! The range of entries was amazing to see, from paintings, drawings, and photography, to collages, bunting and even art on a cake. This competition truly showed the nations support for SSAFA and our Armed Forces, and it was wonderful that together we were able to celebrate this historic anniversary from our homes.
We are delighted to share with you our winning entries. There were so many amazing pieces of art submitted, but sadly, we could only choose one per category. You can still see all of the wonderful pieces of art here.
The winners of the 18+ category were residents from the Sherwood Grange Care Home (Aged 85-100) who carefully created a wonderful collage using paintings by
the residents and clippings from their own special mementos. In order to create this piece, whilst adhering to the social distancing government guidelines in place at the time, they all worked on the collage separately from their own rooms and then passed it on.
Below you can meet the women who created the winning entry, and hear their remarkable stories of the war.
Marian Spencer, 90
Input into Artwork: Text, Poems & Stamps
Marian was a GP and enjoys researching information; she is interested in data, statistics, and wants to understand why things happen. She also loves reading and poetry.
With regard to VE Day and the war, Marian had a strong memory of her friend whose “fiancé was in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, or at least that is where she thought he was. She wrote a letter to him every day”, so for Marian the war was about letter writing, waiting for information and news. When her friend’s fiancé was released, he was put onto a ship to sail home. She recalls, “He was given a postal sack full of all the letters she had written to him”. This sparked Marian’s interest in the communications between families and loved ones during wartimes. She started to think about the postal system during the war; how letters reached the front line and even managed to reach the right people.
Marian took to her iPad researching and was really moved to read about the Army postal service who, based in Nottingham, were sorting Army and Air Force surface and airmail letters to the various battle zones overseas in Italy, Africa, Middle & Far East, India and Burma. In fact wherever there was a serviceman there would be a field post office. She said “ I was amazed to read that General Montgomery had been heard to say that his soldiers could march for three to four days without food on the strength of one letter from home…I think this shows the power and strength of human relationships” .
Vera Francis, 100
Input into Artwork: Original Programme of the Victory Celebration
Vera having worked in the Admiralty and been in the Home Guard was aged about 25 with a new born baby on VE Day 1945. She remembers she could not go up to London because of the baby “so we took part in a street party with families and lots of children running around eating jelly, cakes and sandwiches”. She said “looking back my memories are of happy times, when I was in the Home Guard we were kept busy morning, noon and night. Then I remember how awful the bombing was but the people then were so friendly and helpful to each other, when the war was declared over you thought thank god, the relief made you cry”.
Talking about her treasured Victory Celebration Programme while pointing out the price two pence she said, “This was my special possession, I loved that the government had done something official and created a reminder of the lives lost and the effort made. I kept it all these years”.
Phyllis Mote, 91
Input into Artwork: Original 1945 Daily Telegraph Newspaper
Phyllis loves to keep memorabilia; she has a collection of original newspapers and magazines and felt sure she had a copy from 1945 that could be used for the artwork.
During World War II Phyllis herself was only a young girl but her father was a member of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and was part of the Dunkirk evacuation. She remembers at the age of only 10-15years that her father was always away and she couldn’t speak to him, meaning she felt she never really knew him well. She said, “he had been in the army himself from a very young age”, she remembered “Dad went back to Normandy 10 days after D-Day he spoke about the bridges, I didn’t understand what he meant at the time”. Phyllis said, “My dad was an RSM – Regimental Sergeant Major and all the younger officers relied on him, they looked up to him. I think he was a very good soldier”.
During the war she was with her mother, “she was excellent at keeping house and a really good dressmaker. I was always sad that I couldn’t go to school, that’s the one thing I didn’t get, a proper education at that age but then no one did”.
Marion Nevill, 81
Input into Artwork: Painted drawings
Marion’s over riding memory of the war, being only quite young age 7 years, was of being in hospital with Scarlet Fever and Mastoiditis. She explained, “Women and children were mixed up in the same wards at that time and the ladies all used to do lots of knitting for the army while the children were asked to do blanket stitching onto the edges of flannels. I didn’t like doing this so I used to go round the ward with pencils pretending to be a nurse by putting them into people’s mouths. I always wanted to be a nurse from a very early age”.
Her memory of VE Day itself was of “being in fancy dress for some reason. We lived in a little village in Norfolk called Three Holes and they put tables out in the main road, I think there was a band playing possibly from the Home Guard. I remember lots of colours on the tables such as flags and jellies with cream plus lots of cakes. There was a lot of laughter with children doing races such as the three legged race and the wheelbarrow, it felt fun to me”.
Peggy Farnish, Age 86,
Input into Artwork: Painted drawings
Peggy’s memory of the war was of being evacuated to Kettering with her elder sister and brother. “We were lucky the families were good to us and the place felt calm and peaceful for the most part. There was an American Air Force base nearby (RAF Harrington) so there were lots of Americans in uniforms around and I remember they were really nice giving the evacuee children oranges from baskets. We had a bedroom at the back of the house and you could see the planes fly over when they went off to war all shiny and new, but when they came back they were shot through with holes, in such a state, you could see right through the holes on their wings. They were huge planes; I think they were fortress bombers”.
“My interest in art started when I was an evacuee because the father in the family worked as a postman and he would come home with painting kits for us, which I loved to fill. I think we stayed there for about 5 or 6 months….I can’t remember VE Day itself, I don’t know why….but I really enjoyed doing these paintings”.
Mollie Wheeldon, 86
Input into Artwork: Painted drawings
Mollie was quite young during the war, but she does remember sleeping in the air raid shelter in the back garden above Swansea with her brothers plus the pet rabbit. “We thought it was lots of fun, though my mother always slept in the house…I don’t know why. Dad was away working in Birmingham at the Cadbury chocolate factory. While sleeping in the air raid shelter once my brothers and I saw a German plane caught in the air raid beams and it was blown out of the sky. I don’t know what happened to it afterwards. Because we were high up on a hill above Swansea I remember we watched when Swansea was bombed for 3 days, it felt scary.
We still went to school because it was a small local school which was very near our house just up the hill, the teachers told us that if an air raid siren went off we had to get into twos and run down to our air raid shelter. I remember there was rationing but we were never short of sweets because dad worked at Cadburys. On VE Day, mum was at church in a new suit and she ran down to the house when they announced the war was over. We had a party on our front lawn and my memory is of feeling excited as all the adults were so happy”.
When asked what she thought about the chances of winning the competition, Mollie said “well I don’t see why not, we did enjoy doing it didn’t we”. When asked what prize she would prefer, she said “my choice would be the Tandem Parachute Jump, you know that was one of my wishes and we didn’t get chance to do it last year!”
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