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Victory Celebrations, London

Volume 411: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has received a report from the Commissioner of Police with regard to the behaviour of the crowds in London during the Victory celebrations.

Yes, Sir. I have received the following information from the Commission of Police of the Metropolis. As far as the Commissioner can ascertain, there was not a single ugly incident. The crowds, especially on VE-Day, were very large indeed and very happy and well behaved. When nothing particular was happening they danced or sang and there was a good deal of noise without any misbehaviour. But when His Majesty the King or the Prime Minister spoke, the cessation of all noise was remarkable, and when they appeared their reception was equally remarkable. Very large crowds congregated in the West End and certain centres were full from the early afternoon until well after midnight and at times were packed with an almost solid crowd. The main centres were—Queen's Gardens and the Mall; Whitehall and Parliament Square; Trafalgar Square and the west end of the Strand; and Piccadilly Circus, Coventry Street, Leicester Square, the west end of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road

The police estimated the crowd in Queen's Gardens and the Mall assembled to hear the King's broadcast at 9 a.m. at 60,000–70,000, and throughout the speech one could almost have heard a pin drop. The numbers in other crowded areas were more difficult to estimate, as they were for the most part on the move, but experienced police officers say that such crowds had never been seen in Whitehall before and the Piccadilly Circus area was crowded pretty well up to capacity.

All police officers agree as to the good temper and excellent behaviour of the crowds everywhere. It is the opinion of many experienced police officers that they have never seen such, huge assembles of good natured and well behaved people. The charges for drunkenness were fewer than on an ordinary Saturday night and there was a noticeable absence of bag snatching or pocket-picking. Taking the Metropolitan Police District as a whole there was no case of serious crime and the figures for crime generally were, if anything, below the average. Apart from singing and dancing, the amusements most popular with the crowds appeared to be bonfires and letting off crackers. The bonfires were more in evidence outside the central area, and in some of the poorer and more heavily blitzed areas there seems to have been one in most streets There were no serious fires and although some minor acts of wilful damage were recorded, mainly in connection with the making of bonfires, nothing of a serious nature occurred.

Many thousands of people made no attempt to catch trains or buses on the night of 8th–9th May. Some walked home in the early morning, but many spent the night in St. James's, Green and Hyde Parks and in the doorways of shops. There was no trouble of any moment at underground or tube stations. Something like 80 per cent. of the licensees asked for an extension of hours, and these applications were all granted. In the event, however, a good many public houses closed, probably owing to lack of supplies.