VE Day Resources

Friday 8 May sees the 75th-anniversary of the ending of the Second World War in Europe, known as VE Day. Previously we have told you a little bit about how Leeds celebrated this momentous day on our Leeds Celebrations for VE Day blog so today we wanted to tell you about some free online resources concerning WWII.

Leeds Libraries has a good selection of World War Two eBooks and eAudio books available to borrow on the digital platform Borrowbox. This includes a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Librarian Jolene has put together a list of some of her favourites:

NON-FICTION
Some Sunny Day by Vera Lynn – A biography on the sweetheart songstress of the Second World War.
Auntie’s War, The BBC During the Second World War by Edward Staunton – a sharp-eyed, wry and affectionate companion on the BBC’s wartime journey, investigating archives, diaries, letters and memoirs to examine what the BBC was and what it stood for.

FICTION
Courtney’s War by Wilbur Smith – an epic story of courage, betrayal and undying love that takes the reader to the very heart of a world at war.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris –  one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne – a story about a nine-year-old German boy who knows nothing of the Holocaust and makes friends with a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence.
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – the surviving diary of a young Jewish girl which records her experiences of hiding from the Nazis.

For a full list of fiction and non-fiction please take a look here.  Search the ebook catalogue to find fiction and non-fiction titles to borrow. Full instructions on using Borrowbox can be found here and details on how to register to join Leeds Libraries can be found on our library catalogue.

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Image of Hawkhill Drive residents celebrating VE Day with a street party.
Photograph of residents of Hawkhill Drive in Cross Gates, celebrating VE Day (+1) with a street party on 9 May 1945 (c) Leeds Libraries, www.leodis.net

The Leodis photographic archive has curated a guided tour of Life in Leeds during the Second World War which includes some VE (and VJ) Day celebrations. More photographs can be found by using the advanced search (all the photographs on this blog can be found on the Leodis website).

The Times Digital Archive is free for library members and covers the period 1784-2014. See how it reported VE Day as well as the rest of WWII. You will need your library card number to access this resource and we have put together a handy user guide.

Image of the Lord Mayor of Leeds making a speech as part of VE Day celebrations.
13th May 1945. Charles Walker, Lord Mayor of Leeds is watching the celebration parade for VE Day. On his left is the mace-bearer holding the Leeds mace. This is Victoria Square, in front of Leeds Town Hall. (c) Yorkshire Post Newspapers, www.leodis.net.

BBC History magazine is freely available as part of our eMagazine subscription and the May 2020 edition features a 24 page supplement on VE Day. The genealogy magazine Who Do You Think You Are is also included, which provides useful tips on military family history research. Back copies of magazines are also available. Download the RB Digital App or create a free account on the RB Digital website. You will need your library card number to register. See the library catalogue for further information or view our user guide.

Scottish soldiers dance on Leeds Town Hall steps as part of VE Day celebrations
Scottish soldiers dance on Leeds Town Hall steps as part of VE Day celebrations, 13 May 1945. Copyright Yorkshire Post Newspapers.

Ancestry is free to use at home for library members whilst the libraries are closed. It does not hold service records for WWII personnel but it does have several other WWII related databases including: – UK, WWII Alien Internees 1939-1945, UK Allied Prisoners of War, 1939-45, D-Day War Diaries and Photographs, UK Royal Artillery Tracer Cards, 1939-1948 as well as various military campaign medal databases. It also provides access to the 1939 Register, which was compiled less than a month after the start of WWII to create National Identity Cards. It shows name, address, occupation and date of birth and is almost a substitute census, but anyone deemed to still be living is redacted. Access Ancestry here with your library card and pin number and see our family history page for further blog posts on Ancestry, including introductions to the main family history resources.

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Librarians Jolene and Inga have also been searching for the best WWII websites:

Imperial War Museum
Information and artefacts from the Second World War; virtual tours of the museum are also available.

WW2 People’s War
An online archive of people’s memories and photographs of WWII, collated by the BBC and browsed by topic or location. See also a general history of WW2 on the BBC History archive.

Second World War Experience Centre 
Although the Centre is currently closed to visitors, the website contains archival material and information about life during the Second World War.

Word War II Games and Simulations
An online collection of WWII simulations, timelines and games.

National Archives 
Archival material and information on the Second World War including maps, cabinet papers, propaganda, and records.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Information and archival material on Commonwealth War Graves, many of which can be found in Yorkshire. This site also contains historical information and photographs about Commonwealth involvement in the Second World War.

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Image of VE Day celebration parade.
14th May 1945. Looking from The Headrow down Albion Street as the Victory Parade passes. Over 2,000 members of auxiliary units took part. In spite of the rain dense crowds gathered to watch and celebrate. (C) Yorkshire Post Newspapers, www.leodis.net.

We have also selected some websites more suitable for children:

MyLearning
Funded by the Arts Council and run by Leeds Museums and Galleries, this site offers a host of curriculum-linked learning including numerous resources on WW2.

Horrible Histories
Horrible Histories from CBBC offers children fun facts, games and videos from the Woeful Second World War and the Blitzed Brits series. The television series can be streamed from BBC iPlayer and related books are available from your local library and most book sellers.

BBC Bitesize
The BBC educational website has segments on the history of World War 2 for KS2, KS3 and GCSE, including videos, quizzes and activities.

The School Run
An information site based on the national curriculum for children, includes pages on WW2.

Imperial War Museum
Pages dedicated to the lives of children during WW2 including growing up in WW2, how life changed for children in wartime and child evacuees.

DK Find Out! World War II 
Child friendly website created by the publishers of DK Find Out.  Quizzes, photographs and stories help explain the Second World War for children. Information covers all areas of the nation curriculum.

Britannica Encyclopaedia
Can be accessed for free from home with your library card number. Specific versions for Juniors (5-11) and Students (12-18) covering a range of WW2 subjects and includes articles, videos and images.

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Finally, we are delighted to share here a video specially-commissioned for VE Day, showcasing the best images from our Leodis archive of historical Leeds photographs (this is an edited version; you can see the full video on our Facebook page):

We hope you enjoy using these resources to discover a little more about VE Day.  For difficulties in accessing any of these websites or online resources please contact the Local and Family History Library on localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk or leave a voicemail on 0113 378 6982.

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