MAY 8, 1945 was the day that the British celebrated the end of the Second World War with an explosion of bunting, bonfires, fireworks, street parties, singing, dancing, hugging and even kissing.

D-Day, of June 6, 1944, had proved the turning point, with the largest seaborne invasion in history launching a ground attack on Germany from the west while the Russians closed in from the east. As the pincer tightened around Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker on April 30, 1945 – see The Northern Echo’s remarkable front page obituary of the house painter on one of our reproduction pages.

It was then a matter of not if the war was won but when, and Germany unconditionally surrendered on May 7, 1945. Late that evening, it was declared that the following day would be a national holiday to celebrate Victory in Europe.

The war had lasted five years and eight months and, globally, up to 85m people were killed, about three per cent of the world’s population. Twice as many civilians were killed as military personnel.

The Soviet Union, with up to 27m deaths, and China, with up to 20m, lost the most people. Germany lost more than seven million.

The British lost 383,700 members of its armed forces and 67,200 civilians, and when the war ended, another 13,000 soldiers were being held captive in Prisoner of War camps.

In the North-East, nearly 7,000 civilians were killed, most of whom had been living on the industrial east coast during the darkest days of the Blitz, from September 1940 to May 1941.

Middlesbrough was the first town in Britain to be struck by the Luftwaffe, on May 25, 1940, when 13 bombs fell on South Bank. The Boro lost 99 civilians and had 279 buildings destroyed during the war – including its station, which took a direct hit on August 9, 1942.

Sunderland, with its shipyards which produced 245 merchant vessels between 1939 and 1945, was the worst hit place in the North-East. In the city, 1,013 houses were destroyed, 2,700 more were badly damaged and another 32,000 sustained more minor damage – about 90 per cent of properties were affected.

More importantly, 267 civilians were killed and 389 were badly injured, and the city lost landmarks like the Winter Gardens and the Victoria Hall theatre.

Even inland Darlington suffered a couple of air raids, and it endured the region’s first local fatalities: on September 5, 1939, two days after war had been formally declared, three signalmen, with the Royal Corps of Signals, were crushed to death in Barmpton quarry while filling sandbags. They were George Treslove, 17, of Harrowgate Hill; Sydney Case, 20, of Salisbury Terrace, and Joseph Hinnigan, 25, of Belgrave Road, who left a wife, Euphemia, and two young children.

Therefore, the VE Day mood was a curious mix of heady exhilaration at winning the conflict and sad reflection of those family members and friends who, in recent memory, had been killed.

And for all the jubilation, there was still the war in the Far East to be fought – VJ Day, Victory over Japan, was eventually celebrated on August 15.