VE Day and Durham Schools
Part of an online exhibition from Durham County Record Office commemorating the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe on 8 May 1945
On 5 May 1945, Durham County Council's Director of Education sent a circular to all headteachers about school closures 'after an announcement of the cessation of hostilities in Europe is made'. Headteachers were told to assemble the children as usual on the morning after the official announcement and keep the children in school until the free milk had been handed out. All schools would then close for the rest of that day and the following day.
However, though children were expected to go to school on the morning of VE Day, many did not. They had already started their celebrations and at Aycliffe Village school only half the children turned up. And these children were soon sent home, as no milk had been delivered.
; May 8
'VE Day. It was announced over the Radio that Mr Churchill would announce the unconditional surrender of Germany at 3 pm today and that this day and the following would be taken as a national holiday.
But according to County regulations issued, school was opened as usual, but only 50% of scholars present. The milk supplier came to say he had cancelled the order for milk as he expected the school closed, so with no milk or school dinners I was free to dismiss the children. After prayers and some attention to the Rabbits and the Greenhouse we played games, and the children went home at 11.30 am and told that the rest of the day and the following day were a National Holiday. The registers were not marked.'
Aycliffe Village County School log book, 8 May 1945 (E/SW 193, page 88);
In schools where children did attend (and milk had been delivered), log books record that similar routines were followed across County Durham.
Children queuing for milk in a school room, 1930s (D/CL 27/277/168). Image © reproduced with kind permission of Beamish Museum.;
Before the children were sent home from Bishop Middleham Church of England Junior and Infants School, the school flag was 'hoisted and saluted' followed by a short service of thanksgiving in the school yard. A thanksgiving service was also held at Broompark County Mixed School. There the registers were marked in pencil and later cancelled.
In Crook, the children of St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic School 'marched in procession, carrying the flags of the Allies, to the school playing field to see the Bonfire which had been constructed the previous evening by the children'. This bonfire was lit later that night by Father Lamb, the parish priest.
After the VE Day holiday, schools re-opened on Thursday 10 May. At Benfieldside Senior School, near Consett, however, the headteacher recorded in his log book that 'a number of children did not appear and those who came were very sleepy and disinclined to work evidently due to the late hour they had gone to bed and to the excitement generally.'
Durham County Council Education Department, Circular No.11 (1945): Closure of Schools (CC/Education 634)
Aycliffe Village County School, County Durham, Log Book, 1935-1969 (E/SW 193)
Bishop Middleham Church of England Mixed Junior & Infants School, Log Book, 1896-1946 (E/SW 43)
Broompark Council Mixed School, Log Book, 1933-1950 (E/C 13)
St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic School, Crook, Log Book, 1921-1964 (E/W 100)
Benfieldside Senior Mixed School, Log Book, 1934-1960 (E/NW 68).
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