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Party was in full swing... then in walked Ted, the first hero home.


The street was empty when Ted Gowin got back. It was May 8, 1945 and he had been a prisoner of war in Libya, Italy and Poland for four long years. His parents and eight brothers and sisters didn't know if he was alive or dead.

Then a child saw him and ran to where everyone was assembled for a VE Day party in Tonbridge, Kent.

"He shouted to my mother that there was a man on our path," Ted, now 96, recalls. "Apparently the look on her face she knew it was me. They ran to the house. She cried and cried. She thought I was dead. It's the most gorgeous memory. We hugged and I felt so overwhelmed.

"I had absolutely no idea it was VE Day. But I'd returned right in the middle of it."

Ted, the first of the local boys to return, was the hero of the hour as the celebrations continued. And to mark this week's 70th anniversary, the British Legion recreated the Tonbridge event, with 20 of the original revellers sat at long tables under Union Jack bunting.

Among them were Ted's brothers Bill, 83, and Mick, 79, then 12 and nine, plus his sisters Sheila Hooker, 84, and Tessie Gowin, 76, then 14 and six.

"I didn't even know Ted that day, I was so young when he left," Tessie giggles.

Her brother says: "I was happy to fight for my country. But I don't feel like a hero. So many people were real heroes. Many of them died. I was just lucky to keep alive through it."

Ted, who served in the Royal Engineers and lost two close friends in action, had walked to freedom from a camp in Poland after his Nazi captors fled from advancing Russian troops.

a Bizarrely, he "cadged a ride" on a Spitfire from Belgium back to Croydon At the party he got talking to Nora, a girl of 18 he had grown up with. Four months later they married and went on to have four daughters. "That day was the start of the rest of my life," says Ted.

I'd no idea it was VE Day but I had returned right in the middle of it TED GOWIN ON THE DAY HE GOT HOME FROM WAR


BACK FROM BATTLE Ted Gowin today and at the 1945 street party BACK

THE WAY WE WAR Ted with brothers Mick and Bill, sister Sheila, plus other family and friends, recreate the original 1945 VE Day party in Tonbridge, Kent, pictured above

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 9, 2015
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