WHEN these rarely-seen photos from around the time of Victory in Europe Day, were taken, there was a sense of joy and celebration in the air.

But to the vast majority of the street party revellers, the land army girls and the young cadets in these images, the true horrors of the war were still unknown.


Victory - two pictures from the same VE Day street party in Daws Heath Road in May 1945


The truth about the holocaust and the liberation of prisoner of war camps – mass murder on a hitherto unknown scale – was still hidden from most. But not for long.

The volunteers of Rayleigh Town Museum had been planning an exhibition spanning all this history but the coronavirus outbreak has rendered the museum temporarily shut.

Museum trustee, Terry Joyce, has instead put together a selection of original and reproduced photographs of ‘Wartime Rayleigh’ online, which offers a flavour of what the days towards the end of the war were like.

Images of the town during WW2, show the Black Watch Regiment in the High Street by Mann’s Corner, land army girls posing for a picture while working in the fields, the Air Training Corps at Rayleigh House, and the Rayleigh Home Guard at Brooklands.

There’s also two pictures from a VE Day street party that took place in Daws Heath Road.

Museum volunteers have some information about the photos but would love people to get in touch with the museum on facebook to help fill in the gaps.

Just like in every other town in the country, many people from Rayleigh died in the conflict and many of these names are recorded on town memorials, in cemeteries and on the British Legion War Memorial at the top of the High Street.

On VE Day itself a bonfire was lit in celebration and a huge sign was illuminated on the tower of Holy Trinity Church.

Find out more via rayleightownmuseum.co.uk or on facebook at https://en-gb.facebook.com/rayleightownmuseum/