You will need
- Device to play music
- A4 coloured paper
- Firelighting materials or access to a kitchen
Before you begin
- This activity is all about remembering VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) and the role that Scouts played. We’ve included plenty of suggestions, and it’s up to you which you include.
- VE Day was all about community, so why not use this chance to invite your local community to celebrate with you, and see what Scouts is about?
Wait, what’s VE Day?
VE Day marks the day towards the end of the second world war when fighting against Nazi Germany came to an end in Europe – 8 May 1945. The Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, declared a national holiday that led to a day of partying and celebrating. This activity is all about celebrating like it’s 1945!
The Union Flag was flown high as a sign of peace and victory in Europe. Across the UK, people used red, white, and blue decorations to celebrate – they’re the colours of the Union Flag, and were also the colours of the Allied countries in the second world war.
- Everyone should get red, white, and blue paper (or fabric).
- Everyone should cut triangles from their material. They should be isosceles triangles – they should have a fairly short base and two longer, equal, sloping sides.
- Everyone should attach their triangles to a piece of string (or a strip of fabric). Depending on what they’re using, it might work best to use a glue stick, staples, or needle and thread.
- Everyone should work together to hang the bunting. They should avoid heaters, vents, and lights!
- Everyone should get creative with any leftover materials. They could make hats, badges, or table decorations, for example.
Sounds of victory
Music was a big part of VE day. Some people used gramophones, instruments, and barrel organs, others just sang their own songs.
- Everyone should listen to some music from the time. Popular artists from the second world war include Ella Fitzgerald, The Andrews Sisters, Vera Lynn, and Benny Goodman.
- Everyone should think about which of the songs they like best. Could they make a playlist?
- People could think about how they might dance to the music. They could look at popular dances in the 1940s including the jive, jitterbug, and swing dancing for inspiration.
VE Day dining
On VE Day, communities up and down the country set up tables and chairs in the street and shared food to celebrate together. You could encourage everyone to bring a different dish, or you could cook up a range of things together. You could even look up VE Day recipes – because of rationing, there were many makeshift versions of familiar dishes, such as cakes that didn’t use eggs or sugar.
- Everyone should work together to set out tables and chairs in long rows. They should decorate them with red, white, and blue decorations. They could even use flowers!
- Everyone should lay out the food and make sure everything’s clearly labelled.
- Everyone should enjoy their VE Day dining. How do they think it would’ve felt to enjoy food after such a long time of rationing?
It’s up to you how you reflect on the role Scouts and Guides played in the second world war. You could gather around a fire (and perhaps make a treat like s’mores). Bonfires had been banned during the second world war, so on VE Day people lit fires to celebrate the end of the war in Europe.
- Everyone should think about how the second world war affected Scouts and Guides. People might think about how it affected communities all over the UK – more than half of leaders were called up to fight in the war, and lots of Scouts and Guides were evacuated (many children living in big cities and towns temporarily moved to safer places, usually in the countryside).
- The person leading the activity should explain some of the ways Scouts and Guides helped on the home front.
- Everyone should think about the skills the Scouts and Guides used. Do Scouts and Guides have any of the same skills today? How could people use their skills to help out their local area right now?
- Everyone could get a blanket badge to celebrate the anniversary of VE Day.
How did Scouts help in the second world war?
Scouts helped to collect waste paper (over one million tonnes were recycled over the war) as well as metal, rubber, and rags. They also played a really important role by welcoming displaced persons and refugees from Europe at train stations and in their towns and villages. The UK welcomed 10,000 children and more than 70,000 Jewish refugees over the course of the war.
Scouts helped as part of the Air Raid Precautions (ARP) by issuing and fitting gas marks, building shelters, acting as Air Raid Wardens, firefighting, guiding people to public shelters, and saving people from some of the two million homes that were destroyed by bombing raids.
This activity was about being a citizen. How were Scouts and Guides citizens in the second world war? People might remember some of the ways they helped. How did Scouts use the skills they had? Why is it important to remember events like the second world war (and VE Day)? It’s important to remember important historical events, and the people who made sacrifices, but also to remember the impact the war had on people at home and how they worked together to help out. Right now, there’s no war, home front, or rationing… but there are still plenty of people and causes that need help. What impact could the group have in their local area? If people need inspiration, A Million Hands is a great place to start.
This activity was also about building friendships. Does sharing celebrations help people feel connected to each other? How might friendships have been important during the second world war? People might think about how friends help one another and listen to people’s worries. How can people use anniversaries like VE day to reach out to others in their community?
Teach young people how to use cooking equipment safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Make sure it’s safe to use and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.
- Fires and stoves
Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.
Check for allergies before you begin and read the guidance on food safety. Make sure you have suitable areas for storing and preparing food and avoid cross contamination of different foods.
Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.
- Music and films
Make sure music and films are age appropriate for the youngest person present.