By Judy Waters, Warkworth & District Museum
Time differences around the globe meant there were variances in the time, and even the day, that peace was declared in August 1945. I have a clear memory of being woken by my mother and of dancing down the hall chanting, “the war is over, the war is over.” As my brothers and I walked to school that day, we were greeted by a cacophony of sound made by the wailing of the siren, church bells ringing and car horns hooting. No-one could be in any doubt that this was a momentous day.
The siren was an ingenious local production built by Mr Tom O’Rourke and mounted on his business premises O’Rourke’s Precision Engineering, in Queen Street, about where Riverside Arcade is now. It was equipped with eight sound horns in sets of four, each of which faced opposite directions. Particularly strong in volume, it could be heard several miles away. Fortunately, it was never needed to warn of an attack from the air but it was regularly tested to summon members of the Emergency Precautions Service to man their stations. Warkworth residents had become well acquainted with the pattern of blasts followed by the ‘All Clear’.
There were to be no school lessons that day or the next as two days of celebrations had been planned. As with the VE celebrations three months earlier, the children of the district were part of many events. There was a bonfire with community singing; the school choir was involved in the special church service and the concerts. We had had weeks of practising and rehearsals in the Town Hall prior to the events. Land of Hope and Glory, Now on Land and Sea Descending, and For England come readily to mind. The Boys Brass Band was also on hand to play in the street and at the concerts.
As children, we had little understanding of the devastation caused by the atom bombs. We celebrated a return to normality and an end to the shortages. In fact, rationing was still with us for some time to come. As each child turned 12, they received their own tea ration. This was welcomed by parents as children were not encouraged to drink the precious beverage.
Real hardship in Britain meant we continued to take small change to school so that food and clothing parcels could be sent to Warkworth Northumberland. In recognition of the help given, the Duke of Northumberland gave permission for his crest to be used on the school badge of Warkworth District High School. The bond between the two Warkworths continues to this day 70 years on.