Who were mystery women in the iconic VE Day fountain photo?

Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 12:20 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th May 2020, 12:20 pm

It’s an iconic photograph, one that has been used across the world to highlight celebrations on VE Day, the end of the Second World War in Europe.

But there’s always been one big question surrounding this particular image ... what was the story behind those two women smiling for the camera in the Trafalgar Square fountains on May 8 1945?

Determined to find out more about the women, the Imperial War Museum put an appeal out on Twitter for help. Some 24 hours later, they were contacted by a relative. And their names were revealed as Cynthia Covello and Joyce Digney, two women being life-long friends.

Cynthia died in 1983, but her family was able to put the museum in touch with Joyce, who lived near Vancouver before her death in 2015.

Joyce and Cynthia first met in the Women’s Land Army in the summer of 1944. Joyce was 18 years old and Cynthia 20. They became friends almost immediately and worked together on various farms across Surrey.

Both Joyce and Cynthia had seen photos of First World War armistice parades in London and decided,if they were still alive at the end of WW11. they would make the trip to London and join in the inevitable celebrations.

The two women held true to their word, taking the early train into London that Tuesday morning. Their first stop was St Paul’s Cathedral, where they each said prayers for family members they had lost during the war.

After paying their respects, they headed out into the crowds to have some fun.

In a letter Joyce wrote to Cynthia’s family in 2006, she recalled the atmosphere on the streets.“We walked all over London. Unless you were there, you could not believe the euphoria .... hugs, kisses, smiles and laughter. It was like a gigantic family coming together.”

The two eventually reached Trafalgar Square, where celebrations were in full swing. Joyce and Cynthia dipped into The Chandos, a pub just off the square on St Martin’s Lane. The pub was packed with people, and glasses were in short supply, but Cynthia somehow managed to secure drinks for the two of them.

After the pub, the two women headed into Trafalgar Square, where Joyce and Cynthia joined people cooling off in the fountains. Two sailors joined them and the rest is history.