The 75th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War
The Heritage Centre would very much like to thank Stan Owen, Trustee and Historian, for his unstinting efforts in researching and compiling this Exhibition.
Following our 25th anniversary celebrations during 2019, we were determined that 2020 was going to be an equally memorable year for the Heritage Centre. And so it has proved – but for all the wrong reasons. Enforced lockdown, closure and no visitors, so far, at least. This year will go down as one that changed the world. The new book and seasonal exhibition on Roddy Thompson have been postponed for a year with minor adjustments to the subsequent seasonal exhibitions.
Particularly saddening has been the curtailment of the VE Day celebrations, which are particularly important this year because they mark the 75th anniversary since the ending of the Second World War, a year that also went down as one that changed the world. Restrictions have affected the commemoration of this momentous event, from public celebrations on a national scale to local events in towns and villages like Hexham and Bellingham – and even to what was to have been our more modest but equally sincere seasonal exhibition in the Heritage Centre.
Not all has been lost, however, since we have been able to create a new, enlarged permanent World War Two display, which will incorporate a permanent tribute to the eight Bellingham men who fell in the service of their country. The display will also incorporate various aspects of life on the Home Front and put more emphasis on the children evacuated from Tyneside to Bellingham, both to the village itself and to the newly opened Brownrigg Camp School. The finishing touches will be put to this display as soon as the present circumstances permit. As usual, we appeal for contributions from Friends and supporters.
We were very keen, however, that the Heritage Centre should not seem to have passed over this important occasion in apparent silence and the following pages give a taste of what will be on permanent display as soon as possible.
We hope that it will not be too long before “We’ll Meet Again” in the Heritage Centre.
A Tribute to the Bellingham Men who Fell in the Second World War
It is fitting that Nichol Thomas Batey should represent the men of Bellingham because he was the first of the eight Bellingham men to give their lives on active service. Driver “Tommy” Batey died of wounds at Dunkirk on 31st May 1940.
A Bellingham man, Driver Nichol T. Batey, son of Councillor J. G. and Mrs. Batey of Lonsdale House, is reported to have died through enemy action. He was 21 years of age and served with the R.A.S.C. [as reported in newspapers of the time].
For many years after his death, the family remembered their “Tommy” in the On Active Service section of the In Memoriam column of the local newspapers.
These eight cards will be displayed in a way similar to the 2018 seasonal display to honour the 42 Bellingham men who fell in the First World War
VE Day Gallery - The Parade Through Bellingham
The Procession over the Hareshaw Burn Bridge
The War Savings Group Lorry
The Procession in Main Street
The War Savings Group Lorry (again)
Crowds Gather in Manchester Square
VE Day 50th Celebrations
Miss Jean Milburn (1904-2000) cuts the Cake
The VE Day 50th Anniversary Cake
Crowds Gather in Manchester Square
Everyone enjoys the Street Party
Echoes of the Second World War
BELLINGHAM “DOES IT'S BIT” FOR THE WAR EFFORT
This initiative raised a total of £70,000.
Other initiatives had included Warship Week (1942) which raised £65,000
and Wings for Victory Week (1943) which raised £70,000
“THIS COUNTRY IS AT WAR WITH GERMANY”
Tommy Handley was a veteran comedian but he made his name for his radio show ITMA (It’s That Man Again) which played a major part in maintaining morale. Much of the humour relied on topical events and may now, as a result, seem unfunny but the show had millions in stitches with catchphrases like TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now) and characters like charlady Mrs. Mopp (Can I Do You Now, Sir?) and Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap (I Don’t Mind If I Do) who was always angling for a free drink.
George Formby OBE was the most popular and highest paid entertainer in the British Isles and was thought to be earning more than £100,000 a year when the Second World War broke out. He made eleven films between 1939 and 1945 and performed before over three million troops. He was one of the first entertainers to perform in Normandy after the invasion, having been personally invited there by General Montgomery. His catchphrase was Turned Out Nice Again!
A veteran of the Great War and 1930s television, Arthur Askey CBE shot to national fame from 1938 when he starred in the first regular radio series, Band Waggon, aided by Richard “Stinker” Murdoch. During the Second World War, “Big-Hearted” Arthur starred in eight comedy films. His humour relied on the playfulness of the characters he portrayed and his witty improvisation. He was master of the catchphrase, including I thank you, Before your very eyes and Hello playmates!
Gracie Fields DBE was an actress, singer, comedienne and star of the music hall and cinema. She rose to fame in a series of 1930s films and, despite a period of illness, made five more between 1939 and 1945. She travelled to France to entertain the allied troops in the midst of air-raids, performing in war-torn areas and on the backs of open lorries. She travelled to the South Pacific and New Guinea and was the first artist to perform behind enemy lines in Berlin.
Vera Lynn DBE was the most popular singer of the Second World War. She had a warm, welcoming personality that reminded those serving abroad of the families they had left behind and was known as the Forces’ Sweetheart. In 1941, she had her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, which sent messages to those on active service. She made three films but was best known for singing songs including We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover.
Tommy Trinder CBE began his career in 1921 and, by the start of the Second World War, had become one of Britain’s favourite entertainers. His shows brought welcome relief in the darkest days of the war but he also made seven films, both comedy and serious, as well as several shorts for the Ministry of Information. He had his own catchphrase You Lucky People and was a particular favourite with the Royal family. He was given his own TV series, Trinder Box, in 1959.
Popular Radio and Film of the Time
The Most Popular Radio Show of the Second World War
“IT’S THAT MAN AGAIN”
Tommy Handley (1892 - 1949)
The Most Iconic Film for the Home Front
"Went the Day Well"
“Went the Day Well?” was released in 1942 and is a brilliant example of a wartime propaganda film, warning British citizens to remain ever alert for the arrival of the enemy. Based on a story by Graham Greene, it portrays a quiet English village which has been infiltrated by fifth columnists, who are in league with an advance party of German soldiers masquerading as British troops. The villagers uncover the plot and fight back. The Germans get their piece of England but it is no more than a grave in the local churchyard.
This Ealing Studios film has one of the first appearances of (Dame) Thora Hird (1911-2003) who would make over 100 films in a career that spanned 80 years.
Three of the Most Popular Releases
Arthur and his friend, Stinker Murdoch, are contacted by a member of the BBC to inform them that they will soon be given an audition. On hearing this, the two decide to install themselves in a disused studio on the roof of Broadcasting House. There they announce that they will transmit a pirate broadcast at 8 o’clock that evening. Will it be a success?
Released in 1940
Humble chorus line dancer Peggy Brown (Vera Lynn) has no ambitions to be a singer but, after entertaining a nervous theatre crowd with a sing along during an air raid, Peggy is discovered by the BBC when her composer friend submits a song. Peggy gets her own radio show and is the toast of the BBC. She proves lucky in her career - but in love …
Released in 1943
Celia Crowson (Patricia Roc) is an ordinary young woman determined to do her bit for the war effort. She leaves home, takes a job in a factory and lives in a hostel with other volunteers, all different yet all united in their determination to win the war. The film follows the girls as they work together and discover friendship, true love - and death.
Released in 1943
The Heritage Centre Permanent Exhibition
(4th May 2020: This exhibition is in the course of final preparation and will be available once the Centre is able to re-open)
The Identity Card of Frances Maud Bell (1898-1990) whose family ran the village Bakery in Parkside Place
Identity cards were introduced under the National Registration Act 1939. Everyone, including children, had to carry an identity card at all times to show who they were and where they lived. Identification was necessary if families got separated from one another or if their house was bombed and people were injured or killed. From November 28th, 1943, the new adult blue identity card replaced the brown card, shown above. From February 21st, 1952, it no longer became necessary to carry an identity card.
FIRST AID BOXES
First Aid boxes, fully stocked and ready for use
Cigarette manufacturers produced cards which could be mounted in booklets. This one was “of National Importance” and contained instructions about Air Raid Precautions
AIR RAID PRECAUTIONS FIRST AID BOX
First Aid Treatment for a Gas Attack
Women Wanted for Evacuation Service
Evacuees from Tynemouth
BELLINGHAM PLAYED HOST TO ITS YOUNG VISITORS
THE FIRST DAY IN BELLINGHAM FOR EVACUEES EVA AND IVOR FROM TYNEMOUTH
7 a.m. Even after a night’s sleep, Eva feels exhausted. The bed is strange and she has not slept well. Everything is so quiet. She is not used to silence and it makes her nervous. She used to wake up to the sound of trains going past and traffic. Now it is nothing. She wakes Ivor and they look around their strange new bedroom. It seems so different in the daylight. Eva stares at their possessions in the large suitcase while Ivor opens his own little suitcase and picks at the toys. Eva remembers the tears as their mother packed the suitcases yesterday morning. What is she doing now? Is she missing them? Then she thinks of last night when they nervously joined their new family in their new home for the first time. It all seems so long ago now. What a difference a day makes! But at least they are together and can look after each other. So they get dressed and prepare to meet Mr. and Mr. Armstrong who plucked them from the crowd of evacuees who arrived at Bellingham station yesterday evening.
This is the beginning of a story. What happens next, children? It’s all in your imagination!
Despite the novelty of what seemed like an adventure, many children
suddenly realised that they were on their own.
Mindful of the German bombing of Hartlepool and other exposed towns on the East Coast, twenty-five years earlier, and fearful of similar attacks, possibly with the use of gas, the authorities on Tyneside, from Newcastle eastwards, had been preparing for the evacuation of school children, mothers with children of School Age or under and expectant mothers for many months, or even years. Provision was also being made for aged and blind people, the infirm and invalids.
At Tynemouth, these plans were put into action on 6th-9th September 1939 with the evacuation of 1,908 children from local schools, with 206 of these being destined for Bellingham, though some parents had second thoughts about sending their children away and many children were brought back home as the dangers appeared to ease. For the moment, however, morale boosting headlines carried “Tynemouth’s Tiny Evacuees off to Safety Zones. No Tears as “Plucky Little Crowd” Start Big Adventure.” By 10th September, a reporter from the North Shields Evening News had visited evacuees in Wark and at the Bellingham Youth Hostel and had reported that everything was in good order with the headline “Bellingham Folk take Tynemouth Evacuees to their Hearts.” Brownrigg Camp School, a mile from Bellingham, was also requisitioned for use by (girl) evacuees. Many children took to country living with enthusiasm but, for some, the novelty of their new adventure soon wore off: many children longed to be back with their parents and, similarly, parents with their children.
Goodbye to all the War Posters
OUR FINAL SALUTE TO THE HEROES OF BELLINGHAM
THE EIGHT MEN WHO DID NOT RETURN
THE WORLD WAR TWO MEMORIAL IN THE LYCH GATE