AUGUST 15 1945 - VJ DAY
Commemorative ceremonies and services of remembrance are taking place all over the UK as well as many other nations who made a blood sacrifice in fighting the forces of the Empire of Japan from 1941 to 1945. The UK was foremost among these. Blackpool supplied men to a Royal Artillery regiment which was despatched to strengthen the defence of Singapore. It arrived shortly before the Japanese forces invaded Malaya and overcame the British Garrison (and naval support) at Singapore. There was a heavy price paid by troops captured after the surrender of Singapore who were marched into captivity and horrendous conditions in Japanese Army prison camps for the ensuing four years.
Blackpool was one of several UK towns and cities celebrating the eventual surrender of Japanese Imperial Forces to the Allied Forces in Tokyo Bay in August 1945 by decorating a tram (or bus) to mark what was known as 'VJ Day'. The European War ended previously with surrender of Nazi Germany in May 1945 which became 'VE Day' Victory in Europe Day,
Blackpool' Transport Workshops had experience of creating themed displays utilising the 1937 'Bandwagon' tramcar which replaced the 1911 Standard type tram 68. The Bandwagon had just one autumnal season in its original form in 1937 - before it was hastily rebranded to create public awareness of the need for 'Air Raid Precautions' following on Mr Chamberlain's excursion to Munich where he signed away the freedom of Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Whilst welcomed at the time the Munich Agreement meant that war with Germany was inevitable and urgent need for strengthening Britain's military forces on land, sea and air. Concerns over the probable destruction from air raids and perceived strength of the Luftwaffe became a priority of the Government in 1939 requiring airraid shelters and issuance of gas masks to the population an immediate issue.
Air Raid shelters were built to a prescribed standard design at points of public assembly around Blackpool, many being dug out at sub level along the Promenade. Others with thick concrete roofing and brick walls were erected next to major bus stops and schools. Examples of the latter can still be seen for example near to Bispham Library, at the Main Gates of Stanley Park and adjoining Waterloo Road School.
The special display tram (unnumbered) was given over to a sequence of wartime appeals and themes following its initial role as the 'ARP Tram' in 1939. The Transport Department's Manager, Walter Luff, assumed responsibility for provision of vehicles to support the town's Emergency Services, with both buses and this single tram assigned to wartime roles. By 1945 the tram was again remodelled to celebrate firstly 'Peace In Europe' and VE Day, and economically adjusted to similarly commemorate Victory over Japan (VJ Day) in August. Thereafter it was completely reconstructed to become the 'Progress Car' in time for the switch on of the first postwar Illuminations in 1949.
We see the tram in its celebratory guise for VE Day on the Pleasure Beach loop in May 1945. The photo was taken by a US airman stationed at the Warton US Airforce Bomber Repair Base (BAD2) - then a massive aircraft repair plant for heavy bombers of the USAF in western Europe. Later the site would become the avionics development and aircraft plant for BAE Systems. Blackpool's returning Prisoners of War would forever bear the scars and stress of their years of captivity following the surrender of SIngapore.