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Eric Hayes at V.E. Day street party away from home"

Ombersley Road, Newport, Gwent

12 May 1945

see 7.239 for Eric Hayes' memoir, "About me in a Nutshell", which describes his experiences as a prisoner of war in Poland.




V.E. Day Street Party. 15th May 1945.

Ombersley Road, Newport, Gwent.

Residents & Ex-servicemen Patients from Wooloston (sic) Hospital, Newport.

I am at the table, just visible above the foot of the chap in the armchair.


Eric Hayes wrote a series of one post card and seven letters home during his stay at the hospital dated from 5th to 16th May. They are reproduced below.



To Mrs J. Hayes, 84, Chester Road, Buckley, Nr Chester


Ward 4A, Wooloston Hospital, Newport, Mon.

Saturday, 5th May 45.


Dear Mum and All

Well, I'm in good old Blighty once more & arrived yesterday afternoon by plane from Belgium. Have had fine time since the Liberation on Sun, but wish they'd let me come to see you! Still, I expect to come a bit nearer home in a few days time when we've been fitted out etc. At present all I possess is pyjamas and shaving gear, so I can't run away! Please drop me a line here though - I've not seen your handwriting since Jan and a few bob for stamps and the like. I'm just dying to have news of home again. Will be writing letter as soon as I can. Till then cheerio and lots of love all round.




Sun 6th May 45


Dear Mum and All

I've been forced to let so many Sundays pass without dropping you the usual that I'm quite out of practice! But here goes for a trial - Hope you can read it when I'm done. I did write once recently, but I don't suppose it will ever reach you, so I'll give you a brief summary of what's happened since Jan.


When the Russian push started we had to evacuate & they moved us on foot. We'd been on the road a week when I got my hands frost-bitten & were two more day before I could get treatment at an American camp (30-1-45). They gave us much needed food & started an electrical heat treatment & dressings - that saved part of my fingers, but gangrene was starting so they operated on 17-2-45 & took off my left fingers to the 2nd joint & my right little and ring fingers the same & to the 1st joint on the rt. big finger. Then on Sunday (18-2-45) we had to evacuate Hammerstein (the Hospital), but this time by train & with plenty of grub (quite a change for Jerry!). We were moving 3 days (& incidentally got bombed by Russians at Stargard but their aim was bad) to a camp between Bremen & Hamburg called Sandbostel. I had a rough time on the journey & for the first few days at the new place, but soon picked up. All went well till (Sat) my birthday - then "the lads" started to shell the area. Luckily for us they knew beforehand where we were & no damage was done, but some dropped bluepencil close!


Now Sunday - can you imagine our joy when we saw Tommies creeping out of the woods about 100 yards away! That was about 3 pm. We nearly went mad. Then came tanks and more infantry. We made them drinks and I used that as an excuse to get outside to the boys on guard & had a good chat to them. Then our parties were taken & on Tuesday 1st May about 6 pm we started out by truck for home. We travelled to a C.C.S. & from there were pushed straight through by ambulance to a hospital, arriving 3.30 am. We had some eats & a sleep. Then on Weds (2nd) afternoon travelled by plane to Brussells hosp. for 2 nights. Then plane again early on Friday to Swindon. That's where the wire came from - through a kind Red Cross Lady - then about midnight we were put on a Red X train for Newport. We've been treated marvellously all the way through. Everyone seems intent on feeding us to bursting point. Here in my room are 5 others - but wounded from the front - and I'm getting buckshees over and above them! I've quite lost trace of my pals but have drawn my hosp. "blues" today so tomorrow, with Dr's permission, I'm going for a ramble - I hope into the town. The nurses say POWs are to stay here a few days to be built up a bit. I don't think my fingers will hold me back - only two are not quite healed - so p'raps next week-end will see me home. Here's hoping!


Well must round things off now - this is cadged paper so I mustn't be too extravagant. tomorrow we'll be paid & I'll get my own. When you write will you give me Syd's address & Ralph's so's I can write them too.


Give my love to everyone in Buckley & tell them I'll be seeing them VERY soon now. Of course keep plenty of love for yourselves at 84 till I arrive with fresh supplies.



P.S. Have you got this far with my scribble? How many aspirins up to now?



Tues. V.E. Day (8.5.45)


Dear Everyone

I hope you're not all drunk after your celebrations! I'm not - I'm saving my real V.E. Day until I reach 84 - then I shall really have something to rejoice about. Don't think I've just laid in bed all day - I've had a nice time, but quite quietly. I was paid this morning (£5) & up to now (9.30 pm) have only managed to spend a shilling for a sweep on the "100 guineas". We had passes today from 1 pm - 9 pm, & a POW pal & myself took a boy on crutches into the park this afternoon, returned for tea, then went to a film & returned to hear the King speaking. Yesterday, too, I was out on pass from 1 - 6, & went to the pictures after a walk round the town. As a wind-up, we had tea in a cafe - the Gefengeners dream of steak and chips. P'raps you'll say we were lucky to get a steak - but we had (or at least my pal had) to pay for it - 3/8 a piece! Still the cinemas are free to us, Naafi issue was free today, & we do pretty well for fags from the Red X & other people who give us a packet nearly every time they come in.


Well, although it's V.E. Day, it still persists on getting dark & I don't want to put on the lights as the others are sleeping, so till V+1 I'll say Goodnight and God bless you!


V.E.+1 Weds. Good morning, folks! I've just had a hair-cut & shave and am feeling fresh & breezy, & believe it or not, all by 9.30. I expect you'll say "That's not like our Eric", but the credit is not mine. The nurses still have the same old job of wakening me as Mum used to have, only they start much earlier. This morning it was six, tomorrow it will be at five.


Yesterday was the first time I felt any emotion about this do. Of course, when the boys showed up at the camp in Germany, I felt happy & cheered with the rest, but yesterday in the pictures, they showed some back-flashes of the boys in action in the news reel & I had a job to stop crying, and again during the King's speech. Both got at a soft spot & a queer mixture of happiness & pride went through me.


Today there is to be a parade here - if I can, I'm going to see it. I don't know whether our pal on crutches will be able to manage it - I hope he can. You know, it's strange walking round just as you please, among the flowers & in the park or looking in shop windows. And queerest of all is when a girl speaks to me in English. Of course I had a girl friend out on the farm - we were very thick at one time, but I'll tell you more when we see each other - but conversations were all in German & everything had to be under-hand. Don't start thinking things - it's all over now, but it certainly made a big difference to the life over there.


As I expect you can guess, I'm just dying to have a line from you. I expect there's one on the way for me somewhere, but the holidays will have held it up. Roll on tomorrow's mail! I don't know yet when I'll be able to come home or near home. I don't suppose it'll be much longer now. I'm fattening up no end, & yesterday I had a chest X-ray (just routine, not on account of suspicions) & I believe that turned out o.k. The fingers are doing well - just last scabs on some, some quite clear, but the right big finger has a bit of dead bone sticking out at the top. I don't know if it will have to be cut off - they said on the other side it would come away itself - but it's healed right up to this bone, although it's still sore. I don't know how on earth I got frost in them at all, because I had a pr. of wooly gloves on with the leather ones on top. Mind you it was cold that day. The road led over open country - no shelter at all - & there was a wind which made it hard to stick on your feet & a temperature of -18F. I suppose our blood must have been like water, as we'd had practically had no food on the way. I was glad to be able to drop out at the hospital. The boys who were not ill kept on marching - goodness knows where they ended up. I haven't seen anyone who knows anything about them since.


It feels good to be able to ramble on and on in a letter without thinking "only three more lines, better round it off now". By the way, it's not cadged paper this time - a Red X lady gave it for the room yesterday & I'm getting first look-in. I hope I'm not boring you with my twaddle - it won't last much longer. I'm just about dry now. So keep smiling & scatter my love to everyone for a little while longer till I can do it myself. When I get home, I'll smile enough for all five of us, so you can scowl then if you like. Please don't forget about Syd's and Ralph's addresses when you write. Ah! Here's dinner - spuds, mutton, (it looks like my recollection of mutton, but we'll see when I taste it), greens & gravy, with apples and custard to follow. Don't think it's taken me so long to write so little - I've had several small interruptions to get things for the others, but I don't mind that. I'm glad to be able to help a bit.


And now, "not so long" and tons of love to everyone from



P.S. I've just read over my letter & can hardly make out my own scrawl. Hope you can manage to make sense of it! Bye-bye!

Johnnie Bach.



Wed 10th May 45


My Dear Mum

Today I'm happy - your letters have both arrived & the one from the Vicar. Gee, Mum, I'm glad to see your writing again - the last time was in your letters just before Xmas. And you were great to think of sending me Syd's letters. I've used up one form straight away to write to him - I hope you don't mind taking second place just for today? I can imagine your excitement when the wire arrived & now I'm going to start another panic! While I was writing to Syd, Dr. came to see me, & if I can still read o.k. upside down, he wrote "transfer" on my card. That will probably mean somewhere near home, and, I hope, a leave thrown in. How's that suit you? So leave the flags up till you hear again. It was thoughless of me however, not to tell you I was feeling fine when I wrote on Saturday, but I expect you can imagine my state of mind after just getting here at about 4 am - I was a bit mixed up!


Well, how did V.E. Day holidays go off in the old Hometown & and particularly with you? I went in for a bit more excitement yesterday. We (the same 3 as yesterday & Mon) went to the town by bus (lazy devils, it's only five mins good walking) & had a free ride. We took up a position against a Salvation Army Hostel & they gave us chairs to sit on (& later we stood on them to see over the crowd) & lemonade and cakes. Then having seen a really fine, touching parade, we went to a cake shop & cafe for tea & and here they refused to take payment. Then we mentioned that we were going to the pictures across the road, so the cafe manageress went to see the cinema manager to get us seats. He said he was full, but would squeeze us in. He took us up in what I imagine must have been the best seats in the house, while the poor civvies were standing waiting outside. If you want a good laugh and a good film, go to see "Janie" - it's fine! We came out about 8 pm & were watching the fun in the streets when a bunch of ATS came along with one of the hosp. boys & a sailor in tow (all just a bit you know) & gave a rather forceful invitation to join them by dragging or pushing us into the road & linking arms with us. Then they started Oki-Poki-ing & all sorts in a side street. I didn't join in the rough stuff as I didn't want to knock my hands & perhaps spoil my chances of coming home, but I certainly had fun watching them. Then we went to see the dancing in the street in front of the town hall. Our friend on crutches was taken onto the platform where the Mayor had taken the salute at the parade, & when the girls went home at about 10.30 we were brought back to hosp. by car. We were only about 2 hours late with our passes but we were still first in. The girls are supposed to be coming to see us tonight & then there's a concert in the hosp. after high tea at 4 - which reminds me it's about time I got dressed. I lay in bed until post came up, then I wrote to Syd, had dinner & wrote to you. There's time yet, though, to fill the page - can't waste paper. By the way, you mention Stella's troubles. Don't say that Ralph has stopped one? I hope it's nothing serious. Well, Mum, I hope to be nearer to you at the week-end, if not actually at home, then you can visit me. I didn't mention visiting before because I didn't know how long I would be here. It would have been terrible if we'd passed each other somewhere on the line! Wherever I end up I'll let you know immediately about visiting arrnagements, then I'll know you'll do your bit! And I'll let you know then if I need anything - I'm o.k. here. Well, bye-bye for now & tons of love to Dad, Molly & yourself from your



Heavens! I haven't thanked you for the mony! Please forgive me, & thank you very much!


[The film "Janie" was a Warner (Brock Pemberton) production made in 1944 - 106 minutes and in black and white. The teenage daughter of a middle class American household gets into innocent scrapes with the army. An deafening tomboy farce. {from Halliwells' Film & Video Guide 2002 edited by John Walker}]



12th May 45

My dear big little sister,

Please excuse the form of address, but I want to be truthful and at the same time don't want to give in to you. Never mind lass, you're a grand 'un, and we'll soon be seeing each other. I'll probably be moving on Monday. If I'd known I was staying so long, you could have come down.


Boy, what a fan-mail I had yesterday! Nine letters in all from relations and friends, including one from you and mum. I was surprised that you hadn't heard officially that I'd been ill in Hosp. It used to be the usual procedure to let the Government know such things as hospital admissions and punishments, etc. But don't worry - I'm not and managing most things myself.


And now I'll bring you up to date with my carryings-on. Since Wed. I've been quite respectable. We didn't go out on Thurs. as the Hospital celebrations were on. We had high tea of turkey, ham, lettuce, b and b and cake, and afterwards there was a concert by a dancing troupe - the girls were from 3 to 23 years old - the little ones were sweet! Then to end up there was a drink for all of us. It was O.K. Yesterday, I tried to drop a line to everyone who'd written, but didn't succeed and I also went down town alone to buy a purse for myself and petrol and other odds and ends for the boys. I went round the main shopping centre and in Woolies and then went for tea and a bun in the Naafi. When I came out I met two lads on leave here (perfect strangers, but big hearted chaps) and after a chat they insisted I should have tea with them, so we went to the Toc H place. I was so full I had a job to get up the hill to the Hosp when I came back at 6 to write some more. Today twelve of us are invited to a street party at 5 p.m. I wonder what that will be like? And you didn't go in for a rowdy time over the holidays I suppose you've got to behave yourself now you are courting? You must persuade Charles to let you have a night free and easy somewhere when I get home. Think up some ideas for a really good night out for all of us and let me know, won't you.


A telegram has just arrived from Bessie congratulating me - I wondered what was up! I'm blowed if I can remember her address properly, though. I know it's Fazackerly Liverpool but there's only a code address on the wire. Will you send her address to me please?


Well, old gal, the well's dry for the time being so I'll send my love to everyone and shut up t'shop. Toodle-pip for now!


Your loving brother Eric.

P.S. It's not official that I'm moving on Mon. but the nurses say that's the usual. Here's hoping.



Sun 13th May 45


Dear Mum and All

Please excuse me for writing in pencil. The boy whose pen I usually borrow is using it himself and I can't write at all well with an ordinary pen. They're too thin where you get hold & you must hold them too far up from the paper for me. I had a look round for a fountain pen when I went shopping but apparantly they're things of the past. I'll try in Chester if and when I get there.


I was very surprised to receive a letter from you this morning. I didn't know there was a delivery on Sundays & was preparing my self for writing a letter with nothing to answer.


I had a letter from W. J. R. among my fan-mail, together with a P.O. for 7/6 from Nurse Taylor & him. He congratulated me and said they're eager to have me back at the office and are prepared to make things as easy as possible for me. I'd been wondering whether the C.C. would accept me now, but apparently it's all o.k. Stella has also written, & as you had thought, she didn't mention Ralph which was very unusual. She usually has something or other to tell me about him. Anyhow, in view of what you said in your first letter, I didn't mention him either when I answered. I'm terribly sorry about him & I shall miss him a lot. When he wrote he was always so cheerful & more often than not he had some "juicy" bits of news for me. I often wondered how it passed the censors! If you should meet any of his family please give them my sympathy.








Ah boy, but what a time I had yesterday (12.4.45) at the street party! Twelve of us went and we were picked up at the gates by cars. When we arrived there about two minutes later we were cheered & everyone swarmed around the cars & when we got out they pounced on us & gave us chairs & a packet of fags. The tables were arranged all down the middle of the street & we sat talking while they put the eatables out. We were sweltering even sitting down - a glorious day. Then tea - jelly & ? blancmange, all sorts of sandwiches & piles and piles of cakes, nearly all home made. They took photos during the tea (we saw one about an hour later - I'm quite plain on it) & What do you think? The chap who sat opposite me was from XXA! He'd been on a different march to me & has been home three weeks. He says all my pals from 27 had a h--- of a time - out of 800 only 350 reached the destination; The others had all fallen out on the way. To return to the subject, after tea, we were taken into the houses for a smoke and cool-off while the kiddies had tea & the road was cleared. I went with this chap I'd met & had a glass of wine and a cigar (ahem!) with him, then we went to watch the children's sports (still in the street). All the time they were handing chocolates, smokes, sweets or eats round, & everyone had something to chat about & before we knew where we were it was time to go back. It was a pity as they were just going to start a bonfire & had got a piano out & an accordian for dancing. All my time eyeing up a partner (there were bags of pretty ones, too) whom I thought wouldn't mind being danced on instead of with, was wasted. Anyhow, we got in by 10, & I'd enjoyed myself immensely. Now tomorrow (Mon) we're invited to a British Legion Party. What a life, eh?


This afternoon I've had a walk down town, but it's dead there. We went to the Salvation Army place, had a cup of tea & listend to the service at St Paul's & afterwards had tea at TocH., & got in by 6, to find a big cake waiting on my locker! Some-one had brought it in while I was out.


I still have no definite news for you about moving, but one of the nurses said they're expecting another convoy in the next few days, so here's hoping still.


Well, I'll say Goodnight now & listen to Winnie (no, that's NOT one of the nurses) then up the wooden hills. Tons of love to you all from





16th May 45


My dear Mum,

Thank you very much for your letter and for sending Syd's on to me. I also had one direct from him this morning and a photo of him and his "co-typist" as he calls him. It's a grand photo he's still the same lad just a bit more mature.


I've set the ball rolling here about coming home today. This morning I went to the civvy office to make some enquiries, but once again I didn't get much satisfaction. They said I may go this week or I may have to wait another week. Then this afternoon I went to the Military Office to see about getting home for the week-end and rubbed it in about the 5 years (I hate to do it, but sometimes it's necessary) and they said I should go on 42 days leave and are trying to get hold of the Dr. to sign up the papers. I'm waiting now to know the results. I've got a pass, but am missing most of my time waiting round. I'll go and see now if there's anything doing. If I only get a "48 hrs" pass it will be from 1 p.m. Sat. till 8 p.m. Mon. and will wire you what time I'll arrive later when I've made some enquiries.


A pretty young thing has just said she thinks I'm going home on Fri. on leave. So I'll get this off right away and will confirm it and let you know details tomorrow. Tons of love all round from

Your Eric

Am I excited!





My dear Mum,


I must try out my new pen! I was ever so pleased when I got it this morning. We've got the luck of the old lad, haven't we being able to get one so soon! And it's a lovely writer.


You mentioned a phone message, but the first I heard of it was in a letter from Bessie this morning and then in yours which came about an hour later (as it was registered) I was out on Tues. and as there's a change of 'shift' during the time I was out I expect the Nurses forgot to tell one another. Bessie told me about having P.O.W's at her hospital. It wouldn't have been so bad if I'd gone there would it?


The Ward Sister told me this morning that I was to come home tomorrow and told me about my uniform, they said they'd send for me later. Things are looking sick though, as it's 2-30 now. I've stayed in this afternoon in case they send down for me, but they usually fix blokes up in the morning. Perhaps they'll rush me round tomorrow morning and get me off, but more likely it'll be Saturday now. When I come I shall be in Chester either at 3.31 or 5.28, but I'll wire you at which time quite definitely later. The Post Office is right against the station here, so it's handy enough. I hope you'll forgive me for the way I ended off my letter last night. It'll give you some idea how excited I was. The rational part I'd written beforehand, so as to catch the first available post if I had good news for you, but I caught the post earlier than ever I expected. I just dashed in, wrote the last bit grabbed my jacket and away! Like a big kid, eh! You know, I don't feel a bit 27-ish. I still want to get up to the "21 yr old" tricks.


Today I've no bandages on my right hand and as I'm writing they're sticking up like sore fingers. I've also had my first shave alone for some time - no one can give me a smooth one like myself, even with only a finger and thumb to work with. Coming along, eh!


Well, there's just a slight possibility I shall be home before this reaches you, but I'm afraid it's still a slight one, but I hope that the next you hear from me will be the telegram to say I'm on my way. Here's hoping!


And now, cheerio once again and tons of love to everyone from your own



P.S. Sat. is to be the day - I'm to go to the office at 9.30 tomorrow. See you soon!




Author: Hayes, John Eric, 1918


Year = 1945

Month = May

Day = 12

Building = Public

Event = Historic

Gender = Mixed

People = Crowd

Work = Military

Extra = Formal Portrait

Extra = Military

Extra = WW2

Extra = 1940s

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