This is a copy of the letter every schoolchild in Britain received from the King
on the first anniversary of the end of World War Two. A Blue Bus listener donated to me
and I treasure it enough to have had it framed.
The text is enlarged here...
To mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, the BBC has been broadcasting some cracking programmes over the last few months. There have been a couple of excellent ‘dramatic reconstructions’ (of which I’m not normally an enthusiast), two series of poignant ‘footstep’ documentaries and two series which have told the story of the war itself - from the way in which Europe seemed to sleepwalk into it to its sudden and surprising end.
If you haven’t been able to catch these programmes, I recommend that you give them a try on iPlayer. You may find - as I did - that the appalling events of the past have quite a lot to tell us about the present and - God forbid - the future.
They've also rekindled in my mind a desire to visit the historic sites of World War One. I’ve seen a couple of war cemeteries from trains on my journeys in France and Belgium - white headstones marshalled in neat, obedient lines like the soldiers whose graves they mark. Perhaps this would be an appropriate year for me to finally visit the Somme, the Marne, Amiens and Passchendaele. And the mighty memorial at Thiepval.
A friend who has visited these sites has suggested that I’ll need to ‘steel‘ myself against their effects; she found them almost unbearably heartbreaking. So I’d be interested to know if any truckshunters have been there. If you have visited these sites, what thoughts and emotions did they stir in you?
Did your family lose anyone to the conflict?
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Hildie has been digging around amongst the emails she sent me during my time on The Big Blue Bus and re-sent me this one the other day. It’s a charmer…
‘Ahh! Ian, it's such a shame that the Blue Bus didn't make it to Dipton this morning because I had borrowed a couple of old Log Books from the school to show you. Honestly, they are wonderful, you would have gotten so excited !
For example .....
29 Sep 1943
We held our Harvest Festival this afternoon. The children brought their gifts of fruit and vegetables which are to be sent to the wounded soldiers at Shotley Bridge Hospital.
19 Nov 1943
The weather has been very cold and stormy. Many children are absent due to flu and poor boots.
13 Mar 1947
There is a very bad blizzard today. No buses are running and there is only a single track made by pedestrians through the village. The snow is very deep and paths to the lavatories are filling in as quickly as they are cut. No dinners were received at school today.
18 May 1949
The children watched the crowning of the May Queen in the school garden this afternoon.
And here are some examples from a different Log Book...
8 Mar 1918
School closed this week on account of Food Rationing.
10 Feb 1932
Twelve pairs of boots have been distributed today amongst necessitous cases.
11 May 1937
Tomorrow...King George and Queen Elizabeth will be crowned. The children will assemble at school & form a procession to Bute Park where a programme of dancing and singing will be given. Then form a procession & return to school where tea will be provided. Later, the children will be presented with a Coronation Cup and Saucer.
And, earlier in the same book…
25 Feb 1914
Miss Stelling absent today having gone to hospital for a slight operation.’
It’s interesting that all the children seem to have worn boots; shoes were still footwear of the future. (And surely only a teacher would use the word necessitous, which has otherwise - and thankfully - disappeared from regular vocabulary.)
Both Hildie and I can’t help wondering what Miss Stelling’s ‘slight operation’ was and whether or not she fully recovered.
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