“The war is over, we’ve got the day off and the underground is free, so let’s go up West” - read the story behind iconic VE Day image.
The 75th anniversary of VE Day will have special meaning for a St Neots man whose mum and auntie will appear on a souvenir stamp.
Graham Welton’s mum, Joan Kemp, and her sister Bette, were captured by a photographer in London in May 1945 and the iconic image is part of a set of eight Royal Mail VE Day stamps being released on Friday.
Joan, aged 18, and her sister Bette, aged 16, were working in a tyre factory in Waltham Abbey, in London, in May, 1945, when news broke that the war in Europe had finally come to an end.
The photograph that captured the joy on the faces of Joan, Bette and their friend Dolly, was first published in the Picture Post magazine in the 1950s and years later was used by national media publications. The BBC also used it as part of its World at War television series.
Graham, from Eaton Ford, says his mum passed away in 1998, but she had often told him the story behind the image and the events of that day in 1945.
He said: “Mum and Bette were at work when a colleague, Dolly Marriage, ran into the factory and shouted ‘the war is over, we’ve got the day off and the underground is free, so let’s go up West’.”
“We can’t imagine how they would have felt, but emotions must have been sky-high.”
Graham first became aware that the Royal Mail intended to use the image on a stamp when his aunt, now Bette Williamson, who is aged 91, rang to tell him.
“It feels very surreal. I feel emotional as mum would have been so proud. She, and Bette and Dolly were picked out of the crowd that day and the image conjures up the joy people felt.
“She was always singing and laughing and giggling whenever we got together and she would have been so joyful and gleeful to see her image on a stamp that will be celebrated globally.
“I feel so incredibly proud of her.”