VE Day 1945 – Emanuel’s exodus to Petersfield ended

On 8 May 1945 Emanuel’s exodus to Petersfield since 1 September 1939 was nearing its end. The School had spent six long years away from Battersea and in Petersfield as hosts of Churcher’s College. The war in Europe was over and next term they would return to the old building which had been partially bombed during the Blitz. Emanuel were on their way home – (although some boys only ever knew of Emanuel in Petersfield and Tutorial classes had started in the old building in Battersea in 1943 for around 100 boys). The following report was written for the School magazine The Portcullis in the summer term of 1945 about how the boys celebrated Victory in Europe.

‘Our first intimation that the end was so much nearer than we thought was on Sunday, then 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.

Emanuel VE Day Petersfield

Emanuel boys celebrating VE Day by climbing the King William III statue in Petersfield Town Square 

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.

Emanuel VE Day Petersfield 2

Emanuel boys in Petersfield 8 May 1945

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.

Petersfield_VE Day

The Headmaster Cyril Broom, centre, with Emanuel boys in Petersfield VE Day 1945

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.’


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