VE Day: Hampstead priest and former Vicar-General on the importance of remembering the Second World War

Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini,Monsignor Phelim Rowland & Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg at the interfait

Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini,Monsignor Phelim Rowland & Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg at the interfaith Armistice Day service (Pic: Nigel Sutton) - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The brutality of the Second World War left an indelible mark but people have forgotten how great the loss was, according to a military chaplain of 27 years.

Monsignor Phelim Rowland, parish priest at St Mary’s, Hampstead, was previously Vicar-General of the British Army and served in the Falklands War.

He was born in 1949 and said: “I remember particularly well, as a child, how the area of Hampstead and down towards the West End was potted with bombed-out buildings. They were our playgrounds.

“On any one road there’d be half a dozen houses, and always one or two missing.

“I remember clearly the overwhelming greyness there was after the war. I don’t remember the conflict, but I do remember its after-effects.”

VE Day is important, he said, because as collective memory fades, “we don’t have the conception of just how big the loss was”.

“We are all worried about the virus today,” he continued. “In those days people went through that terror every single day. They were not quite sure if their house would be destroyed or if they themselves would be killed by bombing. It was such an anxious society.”