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Matlock: Starkholmes VE Day Celebration / Welcome Home, 1945
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The tea to celebrate Sergeant Rhodes' safe return home took place on Saturday 2 June 1945[1] and was organised by Mrs. Ethel Hursthouse and Mrs. Mabel Claxton. It was attended by the 22 children who lived on Starkholmes Road and their mothers, all of whom were neighbours of the Rhodes family. Whilst the daughter of one of the organisers recalled that this event was to welcome Douglas Rhodes back from the War - he is the only man in the photo, after all - other sources have suggested it was a belated celebration of VE day, which had already taken place on 8 May 1945. This photograph was taken in Starkholmes Methodist Chapel

Sitting (left to right):
Susan Read, Maureen Hursthouse, Margaret Butler, Peter Ford, Kevin Butler, John Shaw, Elsie Shaw, Margaret Shaw, Elaine Major, Bridget Holmes, Angela Holmes, Mrs Olive Rhodes, Shirley Rhodes, Sergeant Douglas John Rhodes (at the head of the table), June Rhodes, Kathy West, Neil West, Shirley Cooper, Valerie Hursthouse and Lorna Johnson.

Standing (l-r):
Denise Ollerenshaw, Eleanor Claxton, Mrs Read (and baby Sally), Mrs Mary E Major, Mrs Mabel Claxton, Mrs Ethel Hursthouse, Hazel Ollerenshaw and Christine, Mrs Johnson, Mrs Holmes, Mrs Margaret Butler, Mrs Grant, Mrs May Swift and relative.

There were games and competitions afterwards, with prizes provided by Mrs V. Burton, Mrs. Grant and Mrs. Swift[1].

LH side
Enlargement of the LH side of the photo

Donald Rhodes would have been singled out because he was a returning Prisoner of War and his safe return was something to celebrate. He had served in the Royal Armoured Corps and was listed as Missing in Greece in 1941[2]. He was next found in the newspaper records in 1943 when he wrote home.

'Scathing criticism of Italians in charge of the prisoner of war camp where he was confined in Italy is contained in a letter which Sergeant Douglas John Rhodes has sent to his wife, Mrs. Rhodes, of Stainsburt, Starkholmes-road, Matlock, informing her that he has been transferred to Germany.
He writes: "There is not really much I can write, unless I tell you about some of the things the Italians did for us, and which, I can assure you, is not to their credit. When they capitulated there were Red Cross food parcels found in farm buildings away from the camps, and the personal parcel store was ransacked and empty except for wrappers".'[3]

An undated Army record from 1945 states "
"Had been a PoW in German Hands, but now not"[4]'.

One of the children in the photo, Kevin Butler, was to later relate how his father had taken him down into Matlock on VE Day and said that "hundreds of people were gathered cheering and singing, and soldiers on leave were throwing crackers. He had helped his father build a bonfire at Starkholmes[5].

Before the war Mrs. Rhodes and her daughters were living at 4 Brunswood Road in Matlock Bath[6]. In the 1960s pupils at Starkholmes School remember Mrs. Rhodes as a dinner lady. She passed away in 1975 and her husband died in 1978.

R H side
Enlargement of the RH side of the photo, with Sergeant Rhodes at the head of the table, surrounded by his family.

Image copyright © Maureen Smith collection. Names supplied by Grenville Smith.
Photo by Gill, Matlock (stamped on reverse).
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Date and prizes information from Taylor, Keith (2012) "The Matlocks and District in the Second World War - A Diary of Events in Matlock, Matlock Bath and District 1935 - 1955".

[2] From WO 417/25 at TNA. His service number was 550801 and he had been captured in 1941.

[3] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 20 December 1943. Italians Took Prisoners' Red Cross Parcels. Italy had changed sides in September 1943, so we must assume that Douglas Rhodes was transferred to Germany before then. He seems to have been held in Stalag XI-D / 357 which was in Lower Saxony.

[4] From WO 417/93 at TNA.

[5] "Matlock Mercury", 1995.

[6] From the 1939 Register, Find My Past.