Today we continue our VE Day remembrance with some recollections of OEs who were there, either as pupils or soldiers, followed by a reproduction of how the 1945 Portcullis magazine marked the occasion.

Bill Taylor (OE1929-35)

Bill Taylor was a resident in three POW camps: Stalag–VII, Oflag–VIIIF, near Prague, and then his third and final camp, Oflag–79 in Brunswick. Amazingly, as this camp was liberated by the Americans before VE Day, he was quickly repatriated back to the UK and celebrated the occasion with his wife Grace who he had not seen for several years, taking her dancing in central London. After the war Bill returned to office work and accountancy, working in various London businesses.

Clive Barnes (OE1938-45)

Clive was in Petersfield for all six years of the war and recalled in the Portcullis: “When peace did come, I was in London with a large part of Sixth Science. I should rather have liked to have been in Petersfield with the main body of the School. Of the present Sixth Year, approximately a third of our lives has been spent in Petersfield. It does not seem so long in retrospective. A jumble of years, like goldfish in a bowl, occasionally rising to the top to be inspected.” Clive later emigrated to America and was a highly distinguished journalist, theatre critic and ballet expert.

Ron Williamson:

“How strange it was to be standing close to the Headmaster [referring to the school’s famous VE Day photo] in such a relaxed and informal setting – in contrast to the awe in which he was held in his school study, or in the main hall during Assembly. The boys living in Petersfield fell into one of three groups – Emanuel School, Churcher’s College, or the ‘townies’. I have never understood how Emanuel seemingly took over the Square on VE Day, to the exclusion of the other two groups – but we did. Perhaps it was because the Sixth Form jazz band – the Windsor Rhythm Kings – had taken up position on top of the air raid shelter in front of St Peter’s Church and played well into the night.” Ron is still going strong and the development and alumni team are in regular contact with him.

RAF Wing Commander Bertie Mann (OE1927-37) DFC

“Highly important signals arrived – the Instrument of Surrender was signed; then Hitler committed suicide – it was suddenly 8th May – ‘VE’ Day!” Bertie Mann’s post-war career included time as Chief Flying Instructor at RAF Valley and station commander of Kai Tak, Hong Kong, in 1962. He eventually retired from the RAF in 1974.

Dr Ronald Gray (OE1931-38)

“‘VE’ night is a hazy memory. I looked in at Twente airfield; it was eerily quiet – Mustangs, Typhoons and Spitfires neatly lined up with no prospect of the usual busy day tomorrow – you would have sworn they knew that the job was done and the famed and essential war horses were left lonely while the men were out to celebrate. The only dramatic message I remember was at the end of the war when I had something from Goebbels or Himmler, I can’t remember which, saying ‘Our shield and fuehrer, Adolf Hitler is dead.’ We danced all day in Leighton Buzzard Square when VE Day was announced. Well nearly all day. It was great.” Ron served some of the war at Bletchley Park and after the war he returned to Germany, where he became a distinguished German translator, author and academic.

Tony Jones (Senior Librarian and Archivist)

How The Portcullis records the momentous events of VE Day:

Our first intimation that the end was so much nearer than we thought was on Sunday, when it was announced by the BBC that Mr Churchill was expected to make his speech announcing the end of the war in Europe before the end of the week, probably on Thursday, the anniversary of his accession to office five years before. This news caused a considerable stir at Emanuel. The next day, in break, Younger came out to announce, with a forced calm, that the German radio had stated that the Wehrmacht had accepted unconditional surrender terms. Milk drinking continued as before, but one could not help feeling that this announcement had produced a disturbing effect upon minds which, a few minutes before, had been in a state of scholastic contemplation for the past two periods. In the evening, we hung around the wireless set expecting an official announcement, but our hopes for an official celebration that evening were disappointed, for no such announcement came. There was merely a repetition of the German radio announcement. This, however, was a sufficient excuse for the Windsor Rhythm Kings, who, with the encouragement of a few senior members, proceeded to entertain the local populace in the Square. Dancing proceeded from 8 o’clock until about 10.30, when it began to get dark. During the course of the evening it had been announced that the next day, Tuesday, May 8th, would be VE Day and that the Prime Minister would speak at 3 o’clock.

The next morning a spirit of gaiety prevailed. An assembly was held at 9.30 outside the pavilion, and we were dismissed for the next two days. The crowd surged out of the gates of Churcher’s and down Ramshill. By the time we had reached the bottom of the High Street, we were strung out across the road, and, arm-in-arm, we marched up the flag-bedecked High Street singing. The march continued round the town and back to the Square, where it broke up, and we all dispersed to our various occupations, the Sixth Form mainly to imbibe coffee.

The afternoon saw many Emanuel seniors arrayed in original if somewhat loud costumes, which at times verged on the fancy-dress. Some idea of these may be gathered from the photographs which were taken by Hardcastle that afternoon and afterwards printed en masse and sold to the School. The chef d’oeuvre was a snap of the Headmaster standing at the foot of the statue, in the centre of a mob of gesticulating Emanuels, all obviously enjoying themselves immensely. Many of those now at the School will cherish this photograph in after-years as typical of the spirit of Emanuel on VE Day. In the meantime, the equestrian statue of William of Orange had been variously decorated with School ties and scarves, and a certain well-known type of black headgear.

The School’s greatest service to Petersfield that day was the re-appearance that evening of the Windsor Rhythm Kings, this time on top of the shelter in the Square. Lights had been fitted up during the day by Manley, and the band was able to play until midnight. Petersfield’s own official celebrations were not until the following evening, so the band proved a great attraction. A large crowd of people were obviously extremely grateful for its efforts, and £15 was collected for the Hospital. The crowd danced to its music for over four hours. The band that evening consisted of Younger, Higgs, Sutters, Rassell and Ley, the regular members, augmented by Goodchild and Dudley. To all of them we owe our thanks for an extremely happy time that night. Without the band there could have been no dancing or general jollifications such as took place, and without the School the town would not have been enlivened or amused during the day.

J.K.W. The Portcullis, Commemoration Number, 1945