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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

County Durham celebrates VE Day

Part of an online exhibition from Durham County Record Office commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945

Soldiers from B Company, 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in Kangaroo armoured carrier, Germany, late March 1945 (D/DLI Acc: 10050)

Local newspapers show us how towns and villages throughout County Durham celebrated the end of the war in Europe. 

Street party photographs, Auckland Chronicle, 17 May 1945 (D/WP 4/84)
Icon showing image can be enlarged
'Eve of VE Day... groups of people were discussing the glad news, the local picture halls were very poorly attended, a dance in the Co-operative Hall was crowded. One person remarked "You couldn't hear the band for the crowd".'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

'During the afternoon of VE Day, the colliery band paraded the streets... After nightfall, when the kiddies were able to go ahead with the bonfires which they had laboured hard to prepare, there were hundreds of people in the streets... Everyone, it seemed, wanted to be out of doors.'
Auckland Chronicle, 17 May 1945


Street party photographs, 'Auckland Chronicle', 17 May 1945 (D/WP 4/84).

'VE Day celebrations began... within a few minutes of the radio announcement that the war in Europe was over. Bonfires were lit in many places, and there was much jollification in all parts of the town... On Tuesday night there were dances and the licensed houses in the town were open till 11pm.'
Auckland Chronicle, 10 May 1945

Durham City
'Many old soldiers wore their battle honours and ribbons... University students... paraded to the Market Place singing popular war tunes, led by the Salvation Army band... Near Framwellgate bridge a Canadian airman was blowing out The Blaydon Races on a harmonica... Townsfolk lined the Market Place and at 4pm the Mayor... addressed the gathering from the Guildhall balcony.'
Durham County Advertiser, 11 May 1945

Durham City (Mistletoe Street)
'On VE Day they began celebrations with fireworks... and at 10.30, by extending house-lights outside, they floodlit the street, and to the strains of a radio danced in the roadway until 3am... The following day... the ladies... baked cakes, macaroon chocolates and other delicacies... then they took dining tables out into the street, covered them with snow-white cloths and decorated them with vases of flowers and flags. In the centre stood a large iced Victory cake.'
Durham County Advertiser, 11 May 1945

'Children... have worked enthusiastically during the past few days in preparation for the great VE Day announcement, building large bonfires on the village greens and carrying their made-up figure of Hitler from door to door... As they went round, they collected in aid of the Red Cross'.
Auckland Chronicle, 10 May 1945

Easington Lane
'People, who gathered in the High Street, heard dance music played as midnight rang out from the War Memorial clock... By 12.30am the dancing ended when the crowd surged to the church door and requested that a service is held. Miners, some still in their work clothes, and their wives thronged the church.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

'Materials for a VE Day bonfire had been assembled... but alas something happened. It is said that a group of Bevin boys mischievously set alight to the heap at one o'clock on Tuesday morning, and the whole thing disappeared when most of the people were sound asleep.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

'Following the Prime Minister's speech, a procession headed by Murton Prize Band paraded and included an effigy of Adolf Hitler, which bore the inscription "We have pleasure in announcing that we will execute this *** at midnight to-night". The threat was carried out'.
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

Street party photographs, Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 18 May 1945 (D/WP 2/115)
Icon showing image can be enlarged
'Ships in port were gay with bunting, flags flew high from the pulley wheels of Seaham, Dawdon, and Vane Tempest Collieries. Shop fronts and houses were profusely decorated. Church street... was a blaze of colour.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

'On Monday afternoon, when news of the unconditional surrender was broadcast, flags and bunting soon appeared... children were seen pulling large trees through the streets to the village green to start a bonfire... In the evening, after the Royal speech, all the residents who were able gathered at the village green to see the bonfire... A Scottish piper played reels and jigs and the crowd joined in dancing round the fire.'
Auckland Chronicle, 17 May 1945



Street party photographs, Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 18 May 1945 (D/WP 2/115).

'Schoolchildren held a victory parade on VE Day. Starting at South Avenue, the procession went via Woodside and The Villas into Shadforth village, thence to the school, where the scholars sang patriotic songs.'
Durham County Advertiser, 11 May 1945

Sherburn Hill
'The Union Jack floated at the pit head of Sherburn Hill Colliery... In Sherburn Hill Welfare Hall there was a Victory dance... During the dance one minute's silence was observed as a tribute to fallen servicemen.'
Durham County Advertiser, 11 May 1945

South Hetton
'Celebration of VE Day started at midnight on Monday... with a victory dance held by the Welcome Home Fund Committee... Bonfires were set alight, the villagers not waiting for VE night... Although the weather was inclement there was a good turn-out for the parade, many children and adults being in fancy dress.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

'Victory celebrations actually began unofficially on the Monday night. Several excellent bonfires went up, their young proprietors being too impatient to wait for the Prime Minister's declaration on Tuesday... In Thornley Market Place there was a display of coloured lights, and the parish clock was brilliantly illuminated with the V-sign in colours.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 18 May 1945

'From Stanhope to Wearhead, every village had its own VE Day programme, with processions, sports, bonfires, dances and concerts.'
Auckland Chronicle, 17 May 1945

West Cornforth
'A huge bonfire was lit on the pit heap and could clearly be seen from a good distance, while the "V" for Victory sign was shown in electric lights.'
Durham Chronicle & Seaham Weekly News, 11 May 1945

Witton le Wear
'There was a united service at Witton le Wear Parish Church, which was filled to capacity... A piano was brought out to the village green. Dancing took place and was thoroughly enjoyed by the villagers, who waxed merrily until the early hours of the morning.'
Auckland Chronicle, 17 May 1945.

Images © reproduced with kind permission of Newsquest Media Group Ltd.

Back to 'We have come through' - remembering VE Day 1945 exhibition homepage.