We take a look into our archives to bring you the history of World War 2 in North Yorkshire and the VE Day celebrations.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, archivists at North Yorkshire’s County Record Office been looking back in the archives to see what life was like in the county during the Second World War and how the ending of hostilities in Europe on 8 May 1945 was marked by North Yorkshire’s towns, villages and communities.


As early as September 1939, evacuees arrived in the county via the railway, travelling from urban towns such as Hull and Middlesbrough. Our records show how evacuees adapted to life, including living with their billeted family and integrating into local schools.

Invasion preparations

In June 1940, the North Riding County Council published ‘Forewarned is Forearmed’ posters across the county to advise the population what to do in the event of a hostile landing. Questionnaires were posted to residents by district councils, such as this example from Pickering UDC, to establish what resources and equipment were available in case of invasion.

Air raid precautions

Household Record Cards were distributed across the county so that air raid wardens would know who lived at each property in the event of an aerial attack. Locals were advised to arrange temporary accommodation with neighbours in case they had to evacuate their homes.

Fund raising

The local civilian population held fund raising events for the armed services.  An event in Northallerton in May 1943 raised almost double its £80,000 target.

Food and rationing

Food rationing began on 8th January 1940 when bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. By 1942 many other foodstuffs, including meat, milk, cheese, eggs and cooking fat were also ‘on the ration’. Every man, woman and child was given a ration book with coupons. These were required before rationed goods could be purchased.  Clothes rationing began in June 1941.  Rationing finally ended in 1954.

Bomb damage

Whilst the county was not one of the hardest hit during the war, there was a significant number of civilian casualties and damage to towns, as this report from the North Riding Emergency Committee shows.

VE Day

As the end of the war was announced North Yorkshire celebrated.

All sing together…

Before the pandemic, our Music Service planned a celebratory concert involving more than 400 school children and featuring the County Youth Choir, County Youth Symphony Orchestra, County Youth Big Band and the Army Band, Catterick.

The concert has been postponed, but instead the Music Service invited children that were to take part to record themselves singing along at home to two wartime Vera Lynn songs, We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover.

Watch the result here.