True VE Day spirit lives on

VE anniversary lunch at Lamb and Flag, Ottery St Mary. Ref sho 6049-19-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton

VE anniversary lunch at Lamb and Flag, Ottery St Mary. Ref sho 6049-19-15AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

A day of music, memories and a strong show of community spirit marked the 70th anniversary of VE Day in Ottery.

More than 70 people packed into the Lamb and Flag pub to take part in the free lunchtime celebrations.

It was retired teacher Betty Williams who made the whole thing possible after she funded a similar event for lonely residents at Christmas.

Her kind-hearted idea proved phenomenally successful and made national headlines, leading to a deluge of donations – some of which paid the VE Day festivities.

Betty, 86, was seated among the crowds and said she found the day far more relaxing than at Christmas, when the attention of the nation’s press was on her.

“It’s different to the Christmas celebration, but it’s great,” she said. “I hope there will be many more, maybe not for VE Day again, but certainly there will be another celebration at Christmas.”

Mayor Glyn Dobson helped decorate the pub before donning an apron to serve the meals. He said he was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned out for the lunch. It was his idea to host a special event for people in the town to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

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With Betty’s blessing, Councillor Dobson set about organising it, alongside Lamb and Flag landlords, Ron and Anji Miles.

“It’s gone fantastically,” said Cllr Dobson. “You can tell people are really enjoying themselves.”

After the meal, the Reverend Stephen Weston led a sing-along of wartime favourites, which had everybody joining in. Union Jack bunting - donated by West Hill Royal British Legion - a wartime-themed quiz, a screening of old military footage and a fish and chip lunch all helped to set the patriotic scene.

Landlord Ron said: “The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone has been talking about their wartime memories and the VE Day celebrations in 1945. It’s a great day to celebrate, but also a day to remember all those who did not make it back.”

The manager of Ottery Tourist Information Centre, Phyllis Baxter, was responsible for distributing tickets for the event and dressed in a Women’s Voluntary Service tabard for the occasion.

She said: “Ottery has a great, strong community and this brings all people together.”