BBC broadcast marks VE Day anniversary

FOR MANY in Royston, Tuesday May 8 was just another day, but for World War Two veteran Ron Smith and men just like him it was far from a normal Tuesday. It marked the anniversary of the formal end of Hitler s War on Europe – Victory in Europe (VE) Day. I

FOR MANY in Royston, Tuesday May 8 was just another day, but for World War Two veteran Ron Smith and men just like him it was far from a normal Tuesday.

It marked the anniversary of the formal end of Hitler's War on Europe - Victory in Europe (VE) Day.

It was 61 years since the final document of surrender was signed on Tuesday May 8 1945 in General Dwight Eisenhower's headquarters in Reims.

Today the sad reality is, that the majority of people take VE day and what men such as Mr Smith went through for granted. And will not realise just what an important role Royston played during the Second World War. A problem that Chris Murphy and John Harwood, both from Royston, and creators of the documentary Royston - A Town at War hope to change.

On Tuesday Mr Smith, Chris and John joined the BBC Radio Cambridge team for a live broadcast at The Cross to commemorate the VE anniversary and raise awareness of the importance that the town played.

Chris Murphy, who is chairman of the Royston Royal Air Forces Association, said: "It has been 61 years since the end of the war in Europe and we've come here today to commemorate men like Ron and to show how important Royston was.

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"We've also been talking about the documentary and the part it has to play in making people aware of what happened in the community all those years ago."

Royston was an extremely important hub for airbases, with airfields at Bassingbourn, Steeple Morden and Nuthampstead. It was also home to the famous Memphis Belle and her crew, who made 25 successful bombing missions over Germany and occupied Europe.

"I urge everyone to watch the documentary, it's full of important information that people should know about. It lets people know exactly what Royston was like in the war.

"It tells the story of Royston and the surrounding areas. The beauty of film is that it can make an impact. And this documentary certainly does that," said Chris.

The documentary shows experiences and recollections of those on active service in Europe and the Far East during the Second World War.

Sue Dougan presenter for BBC radio Cambridge said: "We've had Chris in the studio before, talking about the documentary. Since then we have received a lot of response, in regards to the documentary. So we decided to mark VE day through a live production that delves back into local stories.

"We've had a number of people come forward and talk about their memories including Mr Smith. It has been a very educational day for everyone involved and it has shown how important memories are."

Mr Smith, 87, a Lance Corporal in the 1st Battalion Cambridge regiment and a veteran from the campaign in Burma said: "It's been very interesting answering their questions and sharing my memories with everyone over the radio.

"I've spoken more about the war today than I ever have. My family will vouch for that. It is something that I have never liked talking about, I don't think any of us have. But I think that it is important history that people should know about.

"It has been good to talk about it - it's just a shame there's not more of us left to talk too."

Mr Murphy believes that we owe a lot to men like Ron and rightly so. They put their lives on the line and fought to protect not just what they had, but what we have today. Something that is quite often forgotten.

"This is modern history - significant history. If it hadn't of been for the likes of the men that we've spoken to today it could have been a whole different story.

"If it had gone the other way, a lot of us wouldn't have been around today. These brave men shaped the world as we know it and it's so important that we understand that," said Chris.

Cameraman John Harwood who moved to Royston in 1963 at the age of 10 said: "I grew up in the area and after speaking to Chris before we started the documentary, I began to realise that I didn't know anything about where I had grown up. Not to mention how important it was during wartime.

"Since I joined Chris on the project, I've been absolutely amazed. People just don't know about Royston's past. But hopefully they will start to take notice and take an interest.

"You'll see old boys around town and most people will not know what they've been through. People forget how important men like Ron and Royston as a town used to be.

"Only now, over 60 years on are people starting to talk about what happened here, hopefully we'll get Royston on the map - where it belongs."

Sixty-one years may not have been a landmark celebration but a celebration of importance all the same. A day that, if not for men like Mr Smith we would never have had the chance to celebrate. And we should never forget that.