VE Day

In the small hours of the morning of 7 May 1945, General Alfred Jodl signed an  unconditional surrender. The lack of any official confirmation or announcement left some uncertainty about when VE Day would be held. Nevertheless, there was a steady demand for flags and flags went up on various prominent buildings. The 9 o’clock news of that evening announced that the next day 8 May was to be the VE Day holiday.

Although relief from the immediate threat was apparent, it was fully realised that this was only one stage in the end of the war. Many people celebrated with bonfires and for the younger children it was the first time they had seen a bonfire.

At 3.00pm people gathered to hear Mr Churchill’s announcement. The King’s speech came at 9.00pm.

In Bradford there was a parade in the morning followed by a service of thanksgiving at the cathedral. In the evening the Town Hall was illuminated with a sign 1939 – 1945 and an illumination of Churchill.

In Keighley a battalion of the Durham Light Infantry who had been stationed in the district for some months held a thanksgiving service in Victoria Park. After the service a wreath was laid on the cenotaph in Town Hall Square by two officers of the battalion.

In the afternoon drenching rain sent everybody indoors but the weather cleared towards the evening.

In Ilkley a bonfire was lit in the Holmes field at 10.00pm by four men who had recently returned from prisoner of war camps. Before the fire was lit, the chairman of the UD Council, Mr Milnes, speaking from a loud-speaker van said: ‘Generations to come will read the records of our country’s achievements with wonder and admiration…after nearly six years of bitter struggle and achievement, it is fitting that on this day of victory we should rejoice that bloodshed has ceased in Europe and in this country, but our rejoicing should be tempered by the  knowledge that our men are still fighting in the East, and neither must we forget on this day all those who have suffered and those who will not return.’ (Ilkley Gazette)

Take a look at this fascinating short film from the British Film Institute here:

V.E. Day Civic Service, Bradford

Images thanks to Keighley News and Ilkley Gazette

Caroline Brown

Keighley News 5th May 1945: Keighley Plan for VE Day

The second in our features to mark VE Day focuses on the Keighley News edition of 5th May 1945. The paper starts with all of the regular small advertisements, public information and local minutiae. The Hippodrome is showing ‘the great thriller Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde’ with The Picture House offering ‘Dark Victory’ starring Bette Davis.


It is not until page 5 that the article ‘Keighley Plan for VE day’ appears: ‘Service of Thanks and Decorations’.

Kly News 05 May 1945 service of thanks and decorations shortened version

Two proposals were approved by Keighley Town Council for recognising VE Day – a public thanksgiving service and an expenditure of £40 to cover the cost of decorations in the centre of the town.

The general mood of the time was that this was only one stage in the end of the war and that it would be a mistake to celebrate prematurely. ‘Mr E Rollinson said he felt there was a ground for a quiet sober rejoicing, but he did not want to see celebrations extend to junketings’. Alderman J Denby remarked that he had a son, a son-in-law and a nephew serving in India and the Far East and said he could hardly rejoice while they were still facing death and ‘Mrs McNulty said she thought there was ample cause for thanksgiving when VE Day came, but celebrations and rejoicings ought to wait until all hostilities ceased’.

Nevertheless at Keighley Borough Court, the Chairman Mr Frank Waller made an announcement affecting licensees on VE Day: Extensions from 10pm to 11pm on VE Day were granted to all licensees on applications being made to the Clerk but ‘no application will be granted for the afternoon break or for the day following VE Day’.

Kly News 05 May 1945 VE Day food 1

In Bingley a bonfire was planned on Druids Altar followed by an impromptu programme of children’s sports with tea and buns.

You can read the whole edition of the Keighley News from 5 May 1945 here (PDF)

Images Reproduced by kind permission of Keighley News.



VE Day Celebrations: Food in WW2

 This week we are featuring a series of posts about food during WW2, a subject very close to our hearts especially in these times of Covid-19.

Please join in by sharing with us your favourite wartime recipes and photographs of your home cooking to our Facebook page:

We start with an extract from the book ‘Ilkley at War’ by Caroline Brown.

Children’s War: Communal Feeding Centres

In the months before the outbreak of war, plans were made for the establishment of feeding centres to provide meals for large groups of evacuated children, schoolchildren and their teachers. The general view was that these canteens were providing a National Service because to cook for a greater number of people would amount to less cost per head. A mid-day meal was provided at 6d per head for children and 8d for adults. Householders who had received evacuees were not obliged to send the children to the communal feeding centres. The responsibility for these canteens was placed by the Ministry of Health upon the Urban and Rural District Councils on whose behalf the WVS organised the arrangements and provided the staff. The centres served a 3 course meal; a sample menu might consist of soup followed by fish pie and boiled beetroot or stewed steak and onions. The meal would be finished off with a pudding such as jam tart or queen pudding. Burley’s Communal Feeding Centre was organised in Salem Church Hall. At Menston a canteen at Kirklands, catering for 60 children, opened in October 1939.

Initially, a feeding centre had been established at Ilkley in the Winter Garden but the hall was in demand for a variety of other uses, including a reception centre for evacuees and a children’s clinic. There was some feeling locally that the arrangements for the evacuees were taking precedence over those for local people. In October 1939 some of these issues were raised at the meeting of the Ilkley Urban District Council including complaints that: ‘they were going to give clinic treatment on one floor with the smell of Irish stew coming from down below.’ The Winter Garden was abandoned as a feeding centre and later in the month Ross Bros. Garage on Wharfe View Road was requisitioned for communal feeding. The centre opened in November with provision for feeding over 300 schoolchildren, evacuees and teachers. There was also a canteen for adult evacuees and any government workers such as ARP, WVS and the Fire Brigade. In July 1940, the Dowager Marchioness of Reading, Chair of the WVS, inspected the Ilkley communal feeding centre and declared that it was the best feeding centre she had seen anywhere in the British Isles. On another occasion another appreciative comment was made by one of the diners at the centre: ‘You get plenty to eat and it is good but we don’t like tin plates. For sixpence it is a fine meal.’ However, the WVS kitchen workers were less happy with the experience and asked that more responsibility should be shouldered by the women evacuees: ‘few have as yet helped with the cooking, serving and washing up. Most of them appear to take things for granted and sit comfortably back with their cigarettes while their hostesses do the work.’

By July 1943, as a result of the easing of local Civil Defence duties, the feeding centres were closed to all but evacuees, school children and teachers and at the beginning of January 1945 the administration of the feeding centres was handed over to the West Riding Education Authority.

‘Ilkley at War’ by Caroline Brown, Tempus, 2006, 9780752441914. All rights reserved.


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