On May 7, 1945, a York woman named Mary Hughes wrote excitedly to a friend to express her hopes that the war with Germany was finally almost over.

“We are all agog for the news now!” she wrote. “It will no doubt be out by the time that you get this and we’ll be celebrating PEACE at last!”

She was right. As historian David Rubinstein records in his book ‘York in War and Peace, 1914-1945’, Mary sent another letter the very next day. “PEACE DECLARED’ at 3 o’clock by the Prime Minister!” she wrote.

It was, of course, May 8, 1945: the day that has gone down in history as VE Day.

Churchill may have ‘declared peace’ in Europe at least, as Mary put it. But the war wasn’t yet over. Japan was not to surrender for another three months: not until August 15, and only after two atomic bombs had been dropped, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Perhaps it was the awareness that for some the war continued - and that the lives of young men from York were still being risked and lost in the Far East - that led to York City Council’s initial response to victory over the Nazis being rather muted.

The council’s finance committee chose to think of VE Day as ‘a thanksgiving rather than a celebration (and) refused to endorse a policy of illuminations or floodlights’, Rubinstein writes in York in War and Peace.

There was a heated debate in the council chamber about the extent to which the defeat of the Nazis should be celebrated.

One council member, a Cllr Ferrey, who had himself lost a son in the war and had two others still serving, argued that ‘lights would be a symbol after the darkness in which Europe has been held for nearly six years’. Nevertheless, the decision to celebrate the victory in Europe was endorsed by only 22 votes to 19 - and even then only for celebrations in a ‘restrained way’.

The debate in the council about how or whether to celebrate was mirrored on the letters pages of the Yorkshire Evening Press.

Most letters published on the subject in May were in favour of celebrations - though not all.

Once correspondent, signing himself off (as was common) with a pseudonym, ‘Still Rejoicing’, wrote that he had lost a brother and a close friend during the war, but still felt that ‘what members of the armed forces died for has been won’ and that this should be celebrated. Another correspondent, who signed themselves S.E.A, added: “Why must York be so dull and always in the background when other towns plan to be so gay?”

But another correspondent, ‘Pax Vobiscum’, wrote of having lost a loved one and having another who looked likely to be sent to Japan, adding ‘I have no heart for rejoicing.’

Nevertheless, after the long years of war, most people in York and elsewhere were ready for a party.

Mr Rubinstein quotes the Yorkshire Gazette, which reported that ‘the citizens made merry in celebrating their release from five years and eight months of war in Europe... The weather cleared and happy crowds thronged the streets, singing and enjoying themselves thoroughly’.

The Yorkshire Evening Press carried a photograph of excited crowds outside the De Grey Rooms, which had been adorned with pennants, Union Jack flags and a giant V for Victory. ‘Where York Made Revelry’ said the headline, while a caption beneath noted that ‘dance music was relayed to vast crowds outside the hall’.

Street parties were held across the city and in the suburbs, Mr Rubinstein writes, and sporting activities of all kinds were held. “In Stamford Bridge a cricket match was held between a side of men dressed as women and one of women dressed as men (the men won).”

Fireworks and signalling cartridges let off at York Minster brightened the sky, and bonfires were also lit across the city. Many houses, meanwhile, were decorated with lights in the form of a giant V.

York oral historian Van Wilson recorded her mother Alexina’s VE Day memories in her book ‘Through The Storm’.

“On VE night, York really came alive,” Alexina recalled. “Betty and I went into the Burton Stone which was filled with RAF boys buying all sorts of mixed drinks. We had a few, then decided to go on to a dance.

“There were victory dances at the Albany, the Co-op and the Clifton ballroom, but as usual we preferred the De Grey Rooms.

“Bert Keech’s band was playing there all week, and the atmosphere was electric. All the windows were flung open, and people were dancing out into the street.”

Through The Storm also recorded the memories of Doreen Angus, who had been a member of the Women’s Land Army. “I remember (there) was a great celebration that night,” she recalled. “I remember us going in (a pub), meeting a lot of friends, and I remember all coming back, all arms linked, and all singing and doing the Paris Glide or something all the way home.”

After almost six years of war, who could blame them - even if, technically, that war was still not quite over?

The end came eventually on August 15 with the announcement that Japan had surrendered.

‘The world rejoices in peace’ said a banner headline across the front of the Yorkshire Evening Press that very day. Beneath it, a sub-heading read: ‘The King outlines Labour government’s programme’.

Speaking from the House of Lords in ‘strong, vigorous tones’ the King gave one of the longest speeches by any monarch for many years, the newspaper reported.

He referred to the ‘devastating new weapon’ - the atom bomb - which had brought the war to a close, and added that it should ‘bring home to all the lesson that the nations of the world must abolish recourse to war, or perish by mutual destruction’.

Wise words - though sadly, words the world was not ready to listen to.

Standing shoulder to shoulder in the audience as the King delivered that speech were Winston Churchill, the man who had done so much to bring Britain through the war - and the man who had replaced him as Prime Minister just the month before, Clement Attlee. Who could doubt that a new order had dawned...