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‘I remember the end of the war being announced over the tannoy’ recalls 80-year-old after visit to Stratford’s Theatre Royal

Lilly Cashman returns to the theatre royal in Stratford on her 80th birthday Lilly Cashman returns to the theatre royal in Stratford on her 80th birthday

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
10:37 AM

On May 8, 1945, Lillian Cashman sat in “the gods” of Stratford’s Theatre Royal with tears streaming down her cheeks as a voice came across the tannoy to announce the end of the Second World War.

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Lillian Cashman surrounded by her family at the Theatre RoyalLillian Cashman surrounded by her family at the Theatre Royal

On May 8, 1945, Lillian Cashman sat in “the gods” of Stratford’s Theatre Royal with tears streaming down her cheeks as a voice came across the tannoy to 
announce the end of the Second World War.

On Sunday, 69 years later, she sat in that very auditorium with her children, grandchildren and a great- grandchild by her side.

She was there to celebrate her 80th birthday, but as she watched Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be nostalgia set in.

“I was 11 when the war ended and I remember sitting in that theatre and hearing the news,” said Lillian, of Dorothy Gardens, Dagenham.

“A man came over the tannoy and said, ‘we’re interrupting the show because we have good news. The war has ended’. Everyone jumped up and starting crying and cheering. It was such relief, but I remember my mum crying because she had lost her son, my brother, in the war. He was 21 when he was killed by a tank.

“I remember people celebrating, it was amazing to know you could go out again without a bloody bomb dropping on your head.”

Lillian’s family planned the outing as a surprise knowing the poignant trip would make the perfect present.

The show is about Cockney low-life characters in the 1950s and features Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in EastEnders.

“The show was magnificent, I knew all the songs and the girl from EastEnders was even better than what she is on telly,” said Lillian.

“I can still remember the theatre from years ago, and it’s the same now, it hasn’t altered at all.

“Back then there wasn’t really a planned show, or there wasn’t that day anyway. It was just all different people coming onto the stage, some telling jokes, some singing.” Although the theatre was closed for mainstream productions between March and July 1945, it was occasionally opened for community shows.

Lillian’s trip not only triggered memories about her last theatre visit, but also struck a chord about wartime days growing up in Newham.

She remembers bombs dropping around the corner from her house on Forest Lane and recalls her windows being blown through and boards being put in their place.

Going to school in Stratford she was rushed into shelters when air-raid 
sirens sounded, singing Ten Green Bottles with her schoolmates on their way down.

“We got used to the bombs and sirens,” said Lillian, “It never stopped us going to school.

“It was the doodlebugs that were scariest though. I remember watching them in the sky and as soon as they stopped above you, that’s when you dived for cover.”

Although it was tinged with nostalgia for Lillian, the theatre trip is one she’ll never forget. She said it was the “perfect present from all of my family” and that she is keen not to leave it so long before going back for another show.

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