Time passed quickly, several voyages between Scotland and Newcastle, we got to know the Western Isles, Shetland and Pentland very well. The Allied Armies were making good progress after setbacks in the Ardennes, and at Arnhem, and finally reached the Rhine. Our hated arch enemy, Adolf Hitler, cowardly committed suicide in his hideaway bunker, and what we all wanted, the Nazi Regime surrendered unconditionally to the Allies in May 1945. Of course our forces in the Japanese Theatre of War were in the thick of it, but General Macarthur's "I'll be back" was coming true.
May 8th was declared Victory in Europe 'VE Day' and half our ship's company were given two days leave from Newcastle, so I made for home and my new family. Although Doris had her hands full with 8 month old Patricia, I went and enjoyed the evening with my celebrating neighbours, who would insist on calling me 'Admiral' because of my gold badges and buttons. Drinks were plentiful at Rolls our neighbours house, and everyone was so relieved that most of the terrible war was over.
I returned to Newcastle the next day and the optimistic talk (I'm glad to say) was about ending our service in the Armed Forces, always a happy subject for us 'hostilities only' men, realising that the Far East war had to be won first. We never anticipated that two Atom bombs would bring the finale. HMS Eastway had come off the 'secret list' and our small, but important part in this Second World War was described in a glowing account in the Newcastle newspaper with a cartoon. I think the reporter must have 'had a few' but I'm glad he didn't mention Grand Central Station, and also the remarkable question I was asked on the beach at Asbury Park by a 12-year-old American boy, "Were the British in the First World War?"
One sunny morning in August 1945, I was busy trying to repair the Captain's radio set, and by chance heard on the news of the unconditional surrender of Japan, after the devastation caused by the Atom bombs dropped by the Allies on Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. Horrible though it was, it ended the war at last. I soon spread the news round to my shipmates with delight, and the date for celebration 'VJ Day' (Victory in Japan), was fixed.
The half of the ship's company who missed the leave on 'VE Day' got two days off to celebrate, while we stayed on board in the River Tyne, which was only fair.
But in the evening, 12 of us Petty Officers went into Newcastle to celebrate, we went to a large pub in Jesmondene called the 'Half Way House', half way to where I don't know. It could have been heaven, because that's how we all felt that night, with the prospect of soon going home for good. In the pub, Frank Rumney ordered 100 pints of beer (because the towel went on at 8pm!), sounds a lot, but between 12 thirsty sailors, it seemed just the ticket to enjoy the end of that awful war. But again an incident occurred which could have been nasty. The glasses were brought and placed on a big round table in the lounge, and the local 'Geordies' treating us like heroes, happily watching the joyful proceedings, like the 'salt of the earth they are', but one creep had to come and pinch a glass (this was not much in hindsight) but Frank spotted him, and it started a fight, but fortunately the fiasco was halted in time.
HMS Eastway as newspaper cartoonist saw us!
At closing time we all trooped out of the pub, very tight (what shall we do with a drunken sailor?) and made our way back to where the Eastway was berthed in the River Tyne, hoping quietly to sleep it off.
What a commotion when we arrived, Fire Engines, Police Cars, Naval patrols, were all round the ship! It transpired that some of those left on board who couldn't join in the fun ashore, had gone berserk (the war was over!) and thrown one of our lifeboats into the river, with lots of other gear, and created a lot of noise, attracting Police attention. Fortunately everybody was forgiving on that joyful day and everything passed off peacefully, I am glad to say.
The next thing was, the war being officially over (hadn't we celebrated it?), when would Churchill and officialdom release us? Would a large reserve of armed forces be kept, or would there be a swift discharge? It wasn't long before the papers published the official lists.