Northumberland community in spotlight for 70th anniversary of VE Day

Belford First School pupils place a wreath at the war memorial.
Belford First School pupils place a wreath at the war memorial.

A north Northumberland community did the area proud as it appeared as part of the BBC’s coverage of the VE Day 70 commemorations last Friday.

Belford was the only town, city or village in the north of England selected to mark the poignant day and a live broadcast of the two-minute silence and was shown throughout the weekend on the BBC.

The village welcomed the opportunity to mark this momentous day, with many bedecking their homes and businesses with bunting and flags, laying a wreath at the war memorial and taking part in a community church service.

St Mary’s CofE VA Middle School was also the only school chosen to represent the children of Great Britain on this historic day.

Headteacher Tony Palmer was thrilled at being selected for this great honour and the pupils and staff did their school, families, community and the country proud.

On the day, the 101 children welcomed 60 VIPs, including serving members of the RAF and Army, Army Cadets, Berwick’s new MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, county councillor John Woodman, members of the village fire service, Lord Walton of Detchant and many survivors of the Second World War, including Enid Dewhurst, Betty Brown and K Joyce Stanton (who served during the war), among others.

Betty Brown at the flagpole which she donated.

Betty Brown at the flagpole which she donated.

They were greeted by the children with a Union Jack-emblazoned school and served a finger buffet made by school cook Mrs Smith and some of the children.

The two poem readers were Charlotte and Florence (Year 7) and the prayer was read by Oscar (Year 7).

The soloist who started the school’s rousing rendition of We’ll Meet Again was Rebecca (Year 8), assisted by trumpet soloist Max (Year 7) and school and community volunteer Eric Gassner on the piano. The Union Jack was raised by Jedd (Year 7).

Speakers at the church included Dr David Morrison, Ken Burn and Capt Kerry Noble. Also in attendance at the church was Capt Alan Buck, who also served in the Second World War.

Belford First School also had a hectic day of activities to mark the occasion with the highlight being Flt Lt Hammerton, from RAF Boulmer, sharing the impact Belford had on war efforts and his own experiences in the RAF.

The children played war games with plotters and radar improvisations and in their forest school, they used stretchers and bandages and thought about what it would be like for soldiers away from home.

Headteacher Janet Robinson welcomed the opportunity to mark the historic day with education, games and activities, adding: “Everyone had a lovely day.”

Some of the children were picked to join the middle school and were dressed in authentic Second World War clothing and gas masks, kindly lent to the school by the Armstrong family’s Household and Farming Museum in North Charlton.

The pupils of both schools have been learning about the Second World War and the impact it would have had on families. They had guest speakers including Betty Brown, who described life as a wartime child, and Ted Bulloch, who fought on Omaha beach for our freedom.

Mrs Brown also donated a flagpole and Union Jacks, from AA Flags in Consett, to the village to commemorate and give thanks to those who fell in the Second World War.

Alnwick-based MKM Building Supplies donated equipment to help the school get ready for the live broadcasts, while Treelocate made and lent lots of colourful pots and kindly donated the two wreaths.

For more pictures from Belford as well as events at Amble and Woodhorn, see Thursday’s Northumberland Gazette.