ROSALIE Harris remembers the night the grown-ups danced the Conga. She was five years old, hoisted onto her father’s shoulders, surrounded by cheering crowds as Bradford’s VE Day celebrations went on into the night.

“One of my earliest memories is VE night,” recalls Rosalie, who was born in 1939. Her father was seconded by the War Department to work for RAF Bomber Command in Lincolnshire and her mother worked in munitions. “I went to the war nursery at English Electric in Thornbury,” says Rosalie. “On VE night Dad was helping behind the bar at The Garnett pub off Leeds Road. Mum was playing the piano. I was upstairs but heard the celebrations. The place was jigging - Conga music, people singing at the top of their voices. Every house on Leeds Road had a flag out.

“We went down to Town Hall Square, I was on Dad’s shoulders. It was full of people, a wonderful atmosphere. I’ll never forget it. I was only five but I knew it meant the end of the war.”

Bradford actor David Roper also recalls the jubilant city centre, heading in as a toddler with his mother: “It was the most important day of everyone’s life. After more than five years of bitter conflict, the war in Europe was over. It was the most momentous day, and filtered down to the youngest Bradfordian.

“We walked from the top of Ivegate to witness the soldiers marching along Tyrrell Street. I was stretching up to hold my mother’s hand, past The Unicorn pub and down to the bottom, where we got a grandstand view of the soldiers. In the back line, the side nearest to us, was my father, shouldering his rifle. The emotion of that day meant little to me then. It was only later that I realised what my father and all the others had done.

“My father, who was in the Army Pay Corps, never got a VC, braved the Normandy beaches or stormed Berlin. He was, however, one of the thousands who fought in their own way so we could live in peace. I’m so glad I saw him that day. The memory of my mother and I trudging down Ivegate to see him has lived with me ever since.”

David later returned to Ivegate, as an ‘office boy’ at Armitage and Norton accountants before switching to an acting career. He went on to star in sitcom The Cuckoo Waltz and TV dramas such as Taggart, EastEnders and The Crown.

For many, VE Day wasn’t so significant. Simon Blakey’s father was serving in Trieste, Italy, at the time. “VE Day wasn’t talked about, the first I heard of it I didn’t know what it was,” says Simon. “Celebrations were brief, then the struggle continued. There was rationing and two bitter winters to get through. Many men, like my father, didn’t come home until much later. When they did, they got on with life.”

Adds Simon: “I had a German friend, we swapped stories of what our fathers did in the war. His was in Paris, on Diplomatic status, then Budapest, Ukraine and the Channel Islands. He got sick and the day war ended he was in hospital in Hanover. The Americans were coming and German officers in the hospital formed a little committee to prepare for their arrival. When the Americans came through the door they all swapped cigarettes and stories. Peace was made.”

Tricia Restorick’s parents ran a farm in Kendal during the war: “Italian and German prisoners worked on the land, some lived in the house. There was a sense of relief after the war, but my parents never talked of VE Day. They carried on working. The cows still had to be milked.”

Tricia’s husband, John, has items his father salvaged from the final war days. “He was in the Navy, at the end of the war he went to a German naval base on the Baltic coast, disposing of war material. He brought back a German naval map of the Kent and Essex coast, binoculars and cutlery.”

What of life after VE Day? Gerald Beevers was born in 1944 in East Morton, where 1,000 soldiers were garrisoned in a disused mill and ‘adopted’ by families for Sunday dinner. “I saw army wagons coming through the village in 1947, men with POW on their back. Some had DP - Displaced Person. I remember seeing men putting signposts back up. I didn’t know what a signpost was!” he says.

“It was a shock seeing injured soldiers in the street. My friend’s dad’s face was burnt, he’d been in a plane crash. You had to look away. At Bingley Grammar we had a teacher, Dougie Lund, who was doubled over. He’d been captured by the Japanese and tied up in a tree, with a bowl of rice just out of reach. “

Says Rosalie: “Men returned like skeletons. My friend told me: ‘Our dad’s coming home with a new leg’. You could always tell a demob suit - they didn’t fit. My uncle came home in one that was too wide. He looked a sight.”

Bill Boldy recalls post-war rationing: “As a small child I threw the ration book on my grandma’s coal fire. I got a good telling off!”

“Times were austere,” says Rosalie. “People were ‘resourceful’. Someone would say: ‘Do you want a part of a pig?’ Carpet weavers had fitted carpets, Lister’s Mill workers had velvet curtains. After the war it all went back; the mills re-claimed the material. I came home one day and our carpets had gone!”