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...

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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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Post comments on this blog or email me:  truckshunters@googlemail.com


Ellie said...

Fascinating! Loved reading it and especially the quotes from the school log.

mim said...

Hi Ian,

I went last year and saw some of the war graves. It's very moving , all those names on the moments and the miles and miles of headstones all in beautifully maintained gardens.
My grandmother's first husband died in the war and she often spoke about how hard it was as she was left with three small children.
You should go, I would love to go back!
Margaret xx

Val said...

Ian you really must go to visit some of the WW1 war graves. We went over 30 years ago when on a camping holiday in Northern France. In those days we'd never seen any pictures of those massive well kept cemeteries so it had a huge impact on us. Specifically the Tyne Cot cemetery near Ypres. There are so many cemeteries and memorials over there, including the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The Flanders Field museum in Ypres is also a must. 30 years ago it was a traditional museum with display cases and exhibits like shells and bayonets. I had nightmares after seeing them that night. I remember being moved to tears reading soldiers letters home alongside their packets of Woodbines.
We took our kids there in 2000 when they were in their teens. Teenage daughter pretended she wasn't interested in the cemetery at first but couldn't help be affected too. We showed them other monuments and trenches.

By then the museum in Ypres was a multi-media experience which really brought home the horrors of war. Yet the display of the soldiers letters and Woodbines was still there and still as poignant as the first time I saw them.

We've no near relatives who died in WW1 but we've a cassette of my great uncle [who I knew] talking about some of his experiences. He overstayed his leave by a day with one of his pals as they weren't bothered about any punishment as they knew it couldn't be as bad as what they were going back to.

Val x