TWO County Durham schools have sought inspiration from their own past for their VE Day celebrations this year.

As the nation comes together virtually to commemorate the 75th anniversary of peace in Europe, logbook entries from May 8, 1945 have given pupils at St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Crook and Aycliffe Village Primary School a unique insight into what their predecessors did that day.

From parades and bonfires to prayers, games and tending to the school garden, the accounts demonstrate the jubilant mood of the time, as well as the commitment to everyday tasks. This is particularly evident in the Aycliffe Village account, where uncertainty about whether the day was a public holiday resulted in only half of the children showing up.

The headteacher wrote: “The milk supplier came to say he had cancelled the order for milk as he expected the school closed, so with no milk and no school dinners I was free to dismiss the children. After prayers and some attention to the rabbits and the greenhouse, we played games and the children went home at 11.30am and were told that the rest of the day and the following day were a national holiday.”

Present day headteacher, Helen Sutherland, was thrilled to receive a copy of the logbook, which inspired a number of activities for the children of key workers in school and those taking part in lessons virtually. This included creating their own logbook entries about life in lockdown, digging for victory on the school vegetable plot and playing 1940s games such as blind man’s buff and hunt the thimble.

The festivities culminated in a red white and blue party, with children who were not in school encouraged to celebrate at home and post pictures on the school’s Facebook page. At school, the children also enjoyed wartime favourites including eggless sponge and Spam hash.

Mrs Sutherland said: “We were really keen to celebrate this important event, even if most of our children can’t be in school right now. It was wonderful to share the logbook with the children and to draw on this source when teaching. I hope by commemorating VE Day we can help the children to understand that even in difficult times, we can still celebrate the important things in life.”

The logbook entry for St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School on May 8, 1945 is equally insightful, shedding light on how the community celebrated the occasion.

It reads: “In Crook, the children of St Cuthbert’s Roman Catholic School marched in procession, carrying the flags of the Allies, to the school playing field to see the bonfire, which had been constructed the previous evening by the children. This bonfire was lit later that night by Father Lamb, the parish priest.”

The account inspired present day staff and pupils to create artwork depicting what took place that day, while also incorporating the theme of peace.

History lessons about the Second World War have also been delivered in school and online, and tea parties were held at school and in children’s homes, with homemade bunting proudly on display and the festivities shared through the school website.

Headteacher Michelle McElhone said: “It is important for children to learn about VE Day and appreciate the sacrifices made for a peace that we all enjoy. It is an opportunity to understand the history of our country and how the past can influence decisions for the future. A sense of pride and community are important, as are the fundamental understanding of people’s rights and the need to celebrate difference, not condemn it.

“Lessons learnt through this period can be taken forward and applied into children’s future with anticipation of mutual respect and tolerance towards all faiths and cultures.”

The logbooks are one of many preserved by Durham County Record Office (DCRO), where staff also provide an archive education service and bespoke workshops for schools.

To commemorate VE Day, the DCRO's team has worked with colleagues in the education service to produce a special learning pack to help schools teach children about this historic event. This free resource, with teachers’ notes and worksheets, is now available on the Learning Zone at

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Staff at County Durham schools have been working incredibly hard to remain open for key workers’ children and to support parents home-schooling youngsters during this difficult time.

“The fact schools like St Cuthbert’s RC Primary and Aycliffe Village have put so much thought into their VE Day commemorations is testament to how committed they are to providing exciting learning experiences for children.

“I would also like to thank the team at Durham County Record Office for creating such an informative and engaging learning pack, which I am sure has proven a valuable for resource for schools across the county.”