What the weather was like in East Anglia 75 years ago on VE Day

VE Day on 8 May 1945 marked the end of the Second World War in Europe and was also the day public weather forecasts resumed for the first time in six years.

During the war, weather forecasts from the Air Ministry's Meteorological Office were classified as secret so they couldn't be used operationally the the enemy.

As celebrations to mark the end of the war in Europe got underway on Tuesday 8 May 1945, the forecast was for "warm thundery conditions with sporadic outbreaks of rain"

The weather forecast was secret during the Second World War so it didn't help the enemy to plan attacks. Credit: Met Office

In the Anglia region, the highest temperature recorded on VE Day in 1945 was 75°F (24°C) at North Weald airfield near Harlow in Essex, which was well above average for early May.

But it wasn't warm everywhere with the seaside of resort of Gorleston, which was then in Suffolk but is now in Norfolk, reaching only 53°F (11.7°C).

However 75 years later, the warm temperatures are likely to be matched in many parts of the region as socially-distanced VE Day commemorations happen in front and back gardens across the nation at 3pm with families remaining in lockdown.

The government had moved the Early May Bank Holiday from Monday to Friday this week so the country could mark the 75 since the end of the war, But the coronavirus pandemic restrictions meant all the large-scale events that had been planned were cancelled.

An extract from the Met Office daily weather report from 8 May 1945 which was secret at the time. Credit: Met Office

Highest temperatures in the Anglia region on 8 May 1945

  • 75°F / 23.9°C at North Weald, Essex

  • 74°F / 23.3°C at Cranfield, Bedfordshire

  • 73°F / 22.8°C at Mildenhall, Suffolk

  • 69°F / 20.6°C at Bircham Newton, Norfolk

  • 64°F / 17.8°C at Felixstowe, Suffolk

  • 53°F / 11.7°C at Gorleston, then in Suffolk (now Norfolk)

There was quite a bit of cloud around in the Anglia region on VE Day 1945 with only two to four hours of bright sunshine recorded at weather stations.

Bircham Newton in west Norfolk had the most sunshine with 4½ hours.

In contrast, on Thursday 7 May 2020, Weybourne in Norfolk has 14¼ hours of sunshine

Weather symbols used on hand-drawn charts in 1945 are still used on electronic weather charts in 2020. Credit: Met Office

Weather charts in 1945 were meticulously plotted by hand but still look very similar to electronically generated charts used by meteorologists today.

The charts pictured above show the weather observations at Mildenhall and Gorleston at 6am GMT on 8 May 1945 on the left and on the right, the weather readings in East Anglia at 1pm BST on 8 May 2020.

In Mildenhall, the weather reading for 1945 was reporting slight continuous rain, a temperature of 56°F (13.3°C) and a pressure of 1014.9 millbars. It was mostly cloudy with a southeasterly wind of 15-20 mph.

In contrast, the modern weather observation from Wattisham in Suffolk for 1pm on Friday 8 May 2020 was partly cloudy skies with a light southerly wind, a temperature of 21.6°C (71°F), the pressure was 1017.6 millibars and no rain reported in the past six hours.

Sunrise over the war memorial in Britain's most easterly town, Lowestoft in Suffolk. Credit: Glen Manship

Highest temperatures in the Anglia region on Friday 8 May 2020

  • 24.2°C at Santon Downham, Suffolk

  • 23.6°C at Tibenham, Norfolk

  • 23.4°C at Cavendish, Suffolk

  • 23.2°C at Cambridge

  • 23.0°C at Marham, Norfolk

  • 23.0°C at Woburn, Bedfordshire

The average maximum temperature for the month of May in 1945, using the standard 30-year 1911-1940 average measure was 16.6°C.

The May average temperature over the decades following the war declined to 15.9°C by 1961-1990 but now using the current 30-year measure of 1981-2010 is is back up to 16.6°C