Partying 1940s Style: Celebrate VE Day in lockdown

4th May 2020 / Museum, Museum blog

After Germany surrendered to the Allied Forces, bringing to an end the hostilities of the Second World War in Europe, Winston Churchill declared 8 May 1945 Victory in Europe Day and made it a national holiday. All across the country people took to the streets to celebrate and in Chippenham the newspaper reported…

On Friday 8 May 2020 we will mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day. On this day it was intended that the nation would join together ‘to commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Second World War generation’ and an exciting programme of events was planned for Chippenham.

These plans have had to be put on hold but you can still join the national celebrations for VE Day safely at home. Chippenham Town Council will be marking VE Day virtually by releasing a video on Friday 8 May made by the community groups that were to take part in the event.

It seems more fitting than ever that we mark this important occasion as a testament to the nation’s resilience and spirit then and indeed now. So as part of our virtual VE Day celebration on Friday 8 May we are asking people to evoke the spirit of the 1940s and hold their own lock down VE Day tea party at home. We are inviting everyone to share their virtual get-togethers and sing-alongs using the hashtag #VEDayChippenham

To help you prepare we have produced this short series of VE Day celebration blogs to answer those really important party questions!

Stay safe, stay in and party on!

Important party question number one: Can you have a party without bunting?

Made from cloth or paper in patriotic colours, bunting is a staple of party decorations everywhere. The word bunting is believed to come from buntine, a lightweight wool fabric traditionally used to make the flags on naval ships. These small flags, originally not joined together, were used to signal from ship to ship.

On the 21 October 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson used this form of communication to send a signal from on board HMS Victory, before the battle of Trafalgar. It read ‘England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty’ now the most famous signal in naval history!

Exactly when bunting (the strings of flags we know today) first started to be used for decoration is not clear, but at the end of the World War II it was widely adopted as a sign of celebration, commemoration and the countries unity and resolve…

Therefore you could say that bunting is compulsory!

But if you don’t have any bunting to hand don’t worry there is plenty of help online, including the BBC Great British Bunting page which has templates and making instructions to download.

Today you could go freestyle with your bunting colours and decorations (a rainbow would be an excellent choice) but for VE Day 1945 people went for a patriotic red, white and blue look using whatever material they had available.

Anything could be made into bunting or flags as we can see from this object in our museum collection. This homemade flag comes from the former Little George, New Road and shows great ingenuity. It was one of several that were used to decorate the outside of the pub and is made from whatever was to hand including a bamboo pole and what appear to be chair springs!

So start hanging your bunting, unfurl that flag or decorate with paper chains and streamers. Whatever you do join in and have fun.

Tomorrow we consider: how can you make party food without flour?


You can learn more about VE Day on the Imperial War Museum’s website

And if you want more ideas for your lock down party you could visit: