VE DAY: UCS Old Gower Geoffrey Janes tells his story
- Credit: Archant
Former Army Sergeant and UCS Old Gower Geoffrey Janes was stationed in India when victory was declared in Europe. He spoke to Hannah Al-Othman.
For some British soldiers, the war did not end with VE Day.
Former UCS pupil Geoffrey Janes remembers hearing about victory in Europe, but as he was stationed in India at the time, for him the war effort was far from over.
The 90-year-old former Army Sergeant attended the Hampstead school between 1935 and 1940, but was evacuated to America in October 1940, when his Golders Green home was hit by German bombers.
He travelled to Cleveland, Ohio with his brother and grandmother, went to school in the States, and won a scholarship to university.
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But the family chose to move back to London in May 1943, and Mr Janes joined the war effort instead of completing his degree.
He said: “We went from Philadelphia to Oporto on a Portugese ship, and then on to Lisbon. There we waited for Thomas Cook to tell us when we’d fly to England. They said it was our time, but then they changed their mind because there wasn’t room for all of us. They had room for two of us, but not for three, but we wanted to fly together.
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“The flight we didn’t go on was shot down by German bombers on June 1, 1943. Leslie Howard from Gone With The Wind was on the ‘plane. If we’d got on that ‘plane I wouldn’t be here.”
Mr Janes was called up on April 6, 1944, and was stationed at Meannee barracks in Colchester.
After training he joined the Royal Army Ordanance Corps (ROAC) and was sent out to the Far East.
He said: “At VE Day I was actually in Barrackpur, outside Calcutta, when we heard the news. I don’t know how we heard, very likely through radio SEAC.
“We heard all about the celebrations in London, but it didn’t do us much good, stuck out there. We celebrated in August at VJ Day.”
Mr Janes, who married his wife Celia, now 87, in 1949, is still involved with UCS, and educates pupils about the war.
Mr Janes stresses to them that the war effort was not just about the soldiers, but that many others played a part.
He said: “It’s not just the one who does the shooting.
“My godfather was the general manager of a well-known pencil company, Venus pencils, during the war and in 1943 he invited me to the factory to see how pencils and crayons were made.
“He told me that some pencils were specially made to help the Armed Forces.
“A pencil could be hollow inside and contain a tiny map to be used by crashed RAF crews to help them escape.”
Pick up a copy of this week’s paper for your full VE Day supplement