First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on May 8, 1945
When news of Germany’s surrender reached Sydney on May 8, 1945, spontaneous celebrations broke out across the city, with crowds ” shouting, waving flags and paper, singing and laughing.”
A few handfuls of torn paper fluttering from an upper window of a Martin Place office, about 4.30 p.m. yesterday, began Sydney’s outbreak of V-E Day mass jubilation. Within a few minutes the air was filled with fluttering paper falling on Martin Place, Castlereagh and Pitt Streets.
With this the city found its voice and mood, and last night Martin Place and other streets and King’s Cross were filled with screaming revellers.
The Governor-General, the Duke of Gloucester, will broadcast at 9.15 p.m. to-day. To-day is V-E Day holiday.
Between 5 p.m. and 5.30 p.m., when thousands of employees of shops and offices finished work, they jammed into Martin Place, shouting, waving flags and paper, singing and laughing.
Car horns joined the din.
Under the snowstorm of paper, trams and motor cars, many flying Allied flags, had difficulty in forcing their way through.
Police endeavoured to regulate the traffic, but each tram and car was bombarded with handfuls of torn paper.
Much of the paper came from the Taxation Department.
By dusk pavements and roads were mantled with paper up to a foot deep.
The police took a tolerant and good-humoured view of the demonstrations, and allowed the public and the motorists plenty of latitude.
Police were stationed near hotels, but bars were rushed by the thirsty, who realised to-morrow would be dry. There was little excessive drinking.
Last night the crowd sang “Waltzing Matilda” and every other song they could think of. When they were hoarse they milled around waving flags and giving husky cheers.
Thc joy became infectious.
People who came to look on with austere amusement found themselves caught up in it, and before they knew it were linked arm and arm with men and women they hadn’t seen in their lives before – and were singing such songs as “Polly-wolly-doodle.”
They formed a ring to let a Scottish member of the Royal Navy and a W.R.N.S. girl do a Highland fling. Many of them discarded their caps and wore little paper sailor’s hats.
Soldiers seemed to be the most reserved of all the Servicemen. A R.A.A.F. lad climbed on to the roof of the platform from which loan appeals are launched, and dragged up a companion.
A woman marching down Martin Place carrying a Union Jack handed it up to them. The R.A.A.F. man hoisted his companion on to his shoulder and passed up the flag. The crowd redoubled its cheering as the flag was waved high above them.
Young people formed “crocodiles,” which wound sinuously through the multitude.
Policemen stood by and allowed themselves to he jostled – in the interests of peace.
The hilarious crowd in Martin Place last night cheered and screamed when a British sailor dragged a policeman out from the back of the police truck and loudly kissed him.
One old man offered his red rose buttonhole to a girl standing next to him.
A much-used mop-head thrown from an office building landed at a jaunty angle on the head of a man standing nearby.
At one stage the greater part of Martin Place, between Pitt and Castlereagh Streets was thronged. No traffic could pass that way.
Police, fearing that, temporary buildings erected in the middle of Martin Place might collapse under the weight of hundreds of gambolling people, cleared them.
As the night wore on the crowd grew by thousands, and surged down to the section in front of the Post Office between Pitt and George Streets.
Their singing and shouting could be heard blocks away.
Women fainted in the close excitement.