As the 75th anniversary of VE Day approaches, arrangements are being made to help people in County Durham commemorate the occasion safely at home.
In recent months, the nation’s focus has been on the coronavirus pandemic, but Durham County Council recognises that there is still a strong desire among residents to pay tribute to the Second World War generation.
To help residents mark the milestone, a special webpage – www.durham.gov.uk/veday75 – is now live. This provides information about the virtual activities on offer, as well as links to online exhibitions, history videos and ideas on how to hold a VE Day party at home.
Sadly, parades cannot take place this year, but on VE Day, Friday, May 8, shortly before the two minutes silence at 11am, people in County Durham can join together virtually for a recording of a bugler performing The Last Post. This will be shared on the council’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and will provide a poignant way for residents to reflect on those who fought for a free world. To follow the council on social media, visit www.facebook.com/durhamcouncil, www.twitter.com/durhamcouncil and www.instagram.com/durham_county_council.
Staff and volunteers at Durham County Record Office (DCRO) and the DLI Collection have also been busy creating online activities to help people find out more about this important period in history. Durham County Council cares for the DLI Collection on behalf of the DLI Trustees, and both DCRO, in County Hall, and the DLI Collection, based at DLI Research and Study Centre in Spennymoor, were planning exhibitions to commemorate the end of the war.
The DLI Collection exhibition has been postponed until later in the year, and the team is now calling on residents of all ages to design triangles for celebratory bunting. This will be displayed at the exhibition when it can go ahead. Templates can be downloaded at www.durham.gov.uk/veday75 and decorated designs can be scanned to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The council will also share some of the designs on social media. Anyone who would like their design to be included, can send it to the team within a direct message on either Facebook or Twitter.
The DCRO exhibition, compiled by military historian Steve Shannon, meanwhile, has been moved online until it is able to take place. ‘We have come through: Remembering VE Day 1945’ features photographs, newspaper articles and other first-hand accounts from the time and is available at www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk.
Pupils across County Durham will also be marking the milestone, with children in school and those at home coming together virtually to learn more about the Second World War. DCRO’s education service has created a special learning pack to help schools teach children about this historic event. The free resource will soon be available on the Learning Zone at www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk and teachers can contact the DCRO team on email@example.com to request a copy.
At two County Durham schools, the activities have been inspired by the schools’ own logbook entries for 8 May 1945, which are cared for by DCRO. As well as staging tea parties at home and in school, pupils at St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Crook and Aycliffe Village Primary School have been learning about what their predecessors did on that historic day – from parades and bonfires, to prayers, games and tending to the school garden.
Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “It’s such a shame the VE Day events originally planned cannot take place. However, there are still lots of ways we can mark the milestone at home and celebrate this important anniversary together virtually. Not only is this an opportunity to honour those who fought for our freedom, but activities such as these can be beneficial for our mental health; providing us with a different focus and a shared experience during a difficult time.”
Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, the council’s Cabinet member for adults and health services, said: “Just like during the war, communities across County Durham have rallied around to support one another and shield the vulnerable from coronavirus. This is a challenge that has been made all the greater by social distancing, but I would like to emphasise the importance of continuing to follow the latest guidance. By staying apart now we can save lives and reduce pressure on the NHS.”
The council is also supporting the Government’s VE Day 75 at home campaign, which encourages people to celebrate the anniversary at home or in their care setting and then share their activities online with the hashtag #VEDay75. Among the national activities planned for 8 May is a televised address by Her Majesty the Queen on BBC One at 9pm – the same time as her father, King George VI, gave a radio address in 1945. This will be followed by a UK wide singalong of Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime classic We’ll Meet Again, led by the Royal British Legion.
More information and links to the national activities taking place, along with party packs, recipe ideas and more, can be found at www.durham.gov.uk/veday75