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A conga line down the High Street heralded peace in Essex

Seventeen-year-old Iris Dabbs was sent straight to the train station when VE Day was announced on May 8, 1945. After 18 months in Dumbarton, Scotland, she and her family were excited to be able to return home. Seventy years on, Iris recalls how the whole country joined together to celebrate peace in Europe.

Iris, her brothers and sisters and her father fled their family home in Hullbridge, in Essex, when it was struck by an incendiary bomb which destroyed one of the bedrooms. Fearing the worst, Iris' father decided the safest thing to do was to head north. Iris, Just 16 at the time, got a job working in a factory while her father earned a living as a boiler maker in the shipyards.

Iris Dabbs and her granddaughter Lisa DabbsIris Dabbs pictured with her granddaughter Lisa Dabbs

The announcement of peace brought an end to their self-imposed evacuation and they immediately returned home.

Iris described the day: "Where I used to go dancing there was five RAF chaps in the hall and because I was a Southerner I used to stand with them and when I was going for the tickets to the railway station, I met them in the town.

"I said to them 'I can't stop I'm going to get the tickets'. It was very exciting. There was no place like home."

The family travelled through London on VE Day itself, not stopping to join the celebrations until they reached home in Essex.

Iris explained: "It was hot when we got down there. I remember it was a really, really sunny day. I led a conga all the way through Rayleigh High Street. All the passengers off the train joined in. It was a lovely feeling, even though the Japanese war was not over."

Iris’ thoughts soon turned to her brother Royce who was serving with the Royal Navy on the Eastern Front. Relief finally came a few months later in August when Victory in Japan was declared.

Iris said: "People were so different after the war. Hullbridge was a lovely community. Everybody was more friendly and everybody knew everybody because it was a small place."

In Hullbridge the local pub, The Anchor, was the focal point for celebrations which were echoed nationwide.

After the war, Iris met her husband Jim who had served with the RAF during the Second World War. When Jim's failing health prompted a move from Essex to Cornwall to be closer to family, the RAF Benevolent Fund was able to help with the costs.

Iris, now 88, puts it quite simply: "I could not have done it without them."

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