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RG Jones celebrates VE75

VE Day was an event of particular significance for RG Jones.  It is 75 years since our founder, Ronald Godfrey Jones, provided public address systems for the VE Day celebrations in London.  It must have been an extraordinary experience to be involved in such an historical event; Britain and her Allies formally accepted Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender after nearly six years of war.

We asked long-serving RG Jones veteran Simon Honywill and Robin Jones for their recollections ...

  • RG Jones celebrates VE75
  • RG Jones celebrates VE75
  • RG Jones celebrates VE75

Fifty years later, in 1995, RG Jones' crew returned to continue the company's legacy providing audio for the performance in front of the palace – the massed bands were on the forecourt, the stage was built in the central gate and featured Dame Vera, Harry Secombe and Cliff Richard.  FOH was on the Victoria Memorial in the middle of the roundabout, clearly visible in the video.

Simon Honywill recalls, “The only way we could make it work was by running the multis and mains under the road.  Fortunately, there were ducts in place, but they hadn’t been used for decades and nobody knew exactly where they terminated in the palace forecourt.  This resulted in the Royal Ferret Handler being summoned – true story!  He came along with his ferrets and sent them down the ducts with a draw line attached to their harnesses.  His colleague waited in the forecourt to see where they appeared and caught them.  One of the ducts was blocked so were only able to use one.  This ultimately meant the only way we could get signal between FOH and the stage was by removing the connectors from the 12 pair Soca multis, running them through and then re-soldering them.  

We put four stacks of Renkus CE3T on towers along the forecourt railings to cover about 500,000 people; it worked if you were within about 75m of the fence.

The biggest surprise was during the site visit.  Myself and Sue Banner (show caller and general legend) went to a meeting at the Palace with Major Sir Michael Parker.  Because we went in with him we waltzed through security as if we lived there, and were led up to the Japanese Room, where there was a large table and loads of beautiful Japanese furniture and art - not surprisingly.  We discussed the way the thing would work, and then came the appearance of the Royal Family on the balcony for the crowds and the flypast.  It became obvious that we were going to have to get some form of monitoring up to the balcony for them to know what was going on, and Michael then said “well take a look Simon” and threw open the doors that were behind some heavy curtains and pushed me through, closely followed by Sue.  We were standing there, on the very same balcony where they have all stood since Buckingham Palace has been there, both of us initially like rabbits in headlights, but very soon we were waving to all the tourists who were cheering and shouting back.  Hilarious!

The upshot of this was Tim Meyer scaling the front of the Palace like a burglar, traversing the front wall in climbing harness with a cable for the monitor.  Any other occasion he would have been shot.

The gig was great - very exciting as the atmosphere was really buzzing and the crowd was massive.  The planes flying down The Mall was really memorable.  It was one of those moments when you knew you were really involved in something totally unified.  Amazing really”.

Ronald’s son Robin Jones took over the company after his father passed away in 1987.  Robin has been instrumental at curating our history archives and has also been transcribing records from the sought after Oak Records; a highly collectable record collection created by RG Jones Studios.  Robin recently transcribed audio for a client from a 78 of the Loafers Dance Band; recorded by RGJ in March 1945 at a victory celebration dance at the old Epsom Baths (they boarded over the baths to turn it into a dance hall).  Robin added “My father also provided sound reinforcement for C.O.L Military Band Lunch Hour Concerts held on steps of St Pauls’ Cathedral during war to raise morale. The concerts were so popular they continued every Thursday many years after the war ended; into the late 1990’s".

Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 has put a halt to our involvement in the celebrations for this year. The company – one of the few remaining independents in our industry – will still come together remotely at 11am, joining generations and communities to take part in a national expression of remembrance and pause for a two minute silence to honour the service and sacrifice of the Second World War generation and reflect on the devastating impact this virus has had on so many lives across the world.  Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stated: “Whilst we now need to celebrate VE 75 in our homes and on our doorsteps, rather than in parades and street parties, I know the nation will come together to mark this historic occasion."

There has never been such a time to reflect on appreciating the world we lived in prior to this virus, a world that was fought to allow generations to prosper.  Those who weren’t directly affected by the horrors of the war, can now take a moment to stand back and consider.  There are many events taking place during the day:

  • As part of special BBC programming, extracts from Sir Winston Churchill’s victory speech will recreate the moment peace in Europe was announced 75 years ago at 3pm and the Prime Minister will speak about the importance of VE Day.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury will record a special reflection and moment of prayer for VE Day.
  • Her Majesty The Queen’s 9pm address to the nation will be followed by a national singalong of Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’. The public will be encouraged to open their doors and join in with this national moment of celebration.
  • The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has produced a template pack so that the public can hold a 1940s style afternoon tea party at home complete with homemade VE Day bunting, original recipes, games, and educational and creative activities for children.
  • NHS Volunteer Responders will be deployed to give several Second World War veterans a call and provide an opportunity to share their stories.
  • Historian and broadcaster Dan Snow will host history lessons for children from Monday 4 May. At 4pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Dan will host a History Hit live on YouTube’s Timeline channel that will focus on a different aspect of the Second World War and aim to teach the public about the importance of VE Day.
  • The Government and Ancestry are working together to encourage the public to join together in commemorating VE Day by discovering their own connection to the Second World War. As part of this, all UK historical records available on ancestry.co.uk will be free for the public from Monday 4 May until Sunday 10 May, giving people the opportunity to uncover the personal stories of the Second World War and the roles their families played.
  • Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland will broadcast a virtual Service of Remembrance followed by online tributes from a range of performers.
  • The First Minister of Wales will host a video call to veterans.
  • A number of commemorative events will also take place across Northern Ireland.  

 

The gig was great - very exciting as the atmosphere was really buzzing and the crowd was massive.  The planes flying down The Mall was really memorable.  It was one of those moments when you knew you were really involved in something totally unified.  Amazing really”.

Simon Honywill
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