United Nations Day, 1942

– a post from Andrew Berriman

A photograph was found in the ‘Observer’ offices in 2014 during its move to Southgate. The caption on the back of the photograph said that it was a view of United Nations Day, June 11th 1942. Yet most people, if asked, would answer that the United Nations had nothing to do with World War Two, as the UN wasn’t founded until 1945, at the end of the war.

In fact, it was on New Year’s Day 1942 that representatives of the 26 countries fighting against the Axis Powers came together in Washington to sign the United Nations Declaration. The term ‘United Nations’ had been proposed by the U.S. President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also suggested that there should be an annual United Nations Day, to be held that year for the first time on June 14th. For some reason, Chichester jumped the gun by three days (or maybe the caption is incorrectly dated!). It was not until October 1945 that the U.N. was formally ratified as an international organisation seeking to ‘maintain peace and security’ in the world.  So today U.N. Day is held on 24th October.

The photograph shows troops marching from Eastgate Square towards the Cross, with bunting overhead. They march past the Mayor, Walter Stride, in his chains of office, standing on a podium under a mass of flags, possibly of the 26 U.N. countries.  Walter Stride was Mayor throughout the War years. As still happens whenever the Mayor goes out and about in the city, the Mace Bearer is there in accompaniment; he can be seen, roadside, in front of the Mayor. The troops have just passed the junction with St. John’s Street. They have already passed Adcock’s Garage on their left. Its first four letters are visible on the side wall, above the sign advertising car parking, available for 6d. That sign can still be seen today, albeit quite faded, if you look really hard. Behind the high wall, south of East Street, was a garden with attractive mature trees. In 1966 Stocklund House was built on the site. The trees were lost to Newtown.

An earlier view, from just after the Great War, is also shown below. This impressive tank was being presented in 1919 to the city. Had it seen active service in battle? The tobacconists shop on the corner has a postbox set in its wall, and this same postbox can be seen in the later view. Note the Shippams clock, and how East Street deceptively seems wider than it is now.