Residents at a retirement village in Turvey, near Bedford, have been sharing stories and memories from a time that shaped the course of history – World War II.
As Remembrance Day approaches, Elderswell Retirement Village residents – some of whom were teenagers during the war years – have recalled what life was like during Britain’s ‘darkest hour’.
94-year-old resident, Eileen Moules, has shared a moving snapshot of post-war life, highlighting the triumph of resilience and sheer determination over adversity.
Eileen witnessed one of Britain’s most historic and victorious days when she joined the crowds at Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) on 8 May 1945.
At the time, Eileen was a draughtswoman working in the Government’s Drawing Office. She trained one day a week at the end of the war when the firm was allowed to permit girls to attend technical college.
“We arrived at Liverpool Street Station and started walking to Buckingham Palace,” recalls Eileen.
“People were climbing Eros in Piccadilly Square and celebrating in Trafalgar Square. There were thousands of people heading in the same direction as us, including lots of young men from the forces. As we made our way up to the Mall to get to Buckingham Palace, we trampled over the geraniums to get to the railings while trying to eat our sandwiches and drink our tea.”
Eileen was about to witness a history book moment, an image that most Britons recognise from black and white photographs that have become cultural artefacts.
“We ended up right opposite the balcony and waited for Churchill and the King and Queen to come out,” said Eileen.
“The princesses also came out and waved. There was lots of cheering and singing going on.
“When the balcony emptied, it wasn’t long before we saw something happen on the forecourt. It was the princesses with their escorts. They came out through the gates into the crowds. It was a joyous occasion which went on until the early hours of the morning. We eventually arrived home and got a good ticking off from our mother for making the trip.”
Eileen said that each Remembrance Day she recalls her memories of that time – and this year is no exception.
During the war, Eileen’s mother drove ambulances while her father joined the Home Guard. Eileen was briefly evacuated to Kings Lynn as a child, which inspired an independent outlook on life – which she has been able to continue since moving into Elderswell Retirement Village.
In August 2023, she moved into a fully furnished two-bed apartment in Elderswell, along with her daughter, Jan.
“It’s essential to adapt and make a new life for yourself. Finding joy in life and staying positive is key,” said Eileen of her new life in Turvey.