How Malpas will look back on the 75th anniversary of VE Day

PUBLISHED: 08:28 04 May 2020

Malpas High Street in th early 1950s - Courtesy of David Hayns

Malpas High Street in th early 1950s - Courtesy of David Hayns

Courtesy of David Hayns

You can’t keep a good village down. Especially in Malpas where locals are turning defeat into a new campaign for their VE Day celebrations.

Malpas Town Band - Courtesy of David HaynsMalpas Town Band - Courtesy of David Hayns

Don’t be fooled by Malpas. This charming, at first glance seemingly sleepy, Cheshire village may not be the obvious place to find a thriving social scene. Take a second look and you’ll find a community teeming with dozens of groups, clubs, societies and a packed social calendar.

The latest was the Malpas VE75 Celebrations, being organised to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe. It had been months in the planning, at a cost of thousands. But like so many events and occasions, the celebrations had to be put on hold because of the current coronavirus crisis.

“We were devastated,” says Chris Whitehurst, secretary of the Malpas VE75 celebrations. “We had spent many months bringing the event together and were just weeks away from it taking place, and then this awful situation happened and the country went into lockdown.

“When you have put so much into something as a village and it has to be postponed, it is a huge disappointment. Events like these are ones that bring a community together, something so sorely needed at this time.”

Chloe Hewitt with dancers from Malpas Alport Primary SchoolChloe Hewitt with dancers from Malpas Alport Primary School

The three-day event, which was scheduled for May 8th to 10th, included a spectacular Last Night of the Proms, featuring an army of 45 professional musicians from the Northern Concordia Orchestra, along with a packed programme of special exhibitions, a parade of Second World War military, commercial and agricultural vehicles alongside evacuees, the Women’s Land Army, soldiers and nurses, a tribute to the fallen, a 1940s treasure hunt and street party celebrations among many other things.

Former Strictly Come Dancing star and professional dancer Chloe Hewitt worked with pupils at Malpas Alport Primary School to help them learn a routine for a special tea dance performance.

“I did jive and lindy moves with them and they were absolutely wonderful,’ says Chloe, who lives 
in nearby No Man’s Heath and grew up in the village. ‘To see them so full of energy, moving their bodies and most importantly having fun was fantastic. 
“I wanted to be able to give back to the village that has given me so much support and encouragement.”

Chloe, who has been dancing since she was seven years old and has been crowned World, European, and British National Ballroom and Latin Champion, will return for a workshop with 15 of the pupils in the build-up to the rearranged event, which, it is hoped will take place in September.

Chris Whitehurst during preparation for a previous wartime commemoration event, Malpas 100.Chris Whitehurst during preparation for a previous wartime commemoration event, Malpas 100.

“Dancing boosted morale during the Second World War,” said Chloe. “And it’s been fun sharing that with the children. But it has also given an opportunity for them to learn more about history, which we brought to life through dancing.

“They were so engaged and I cannot wait to start working with them again, when the time comes.”

Malpas, like many other small communities across the country, saw life change completely due to the impact of the war, with many of the village’s men being called up to serve. There were military camps nearby and centres holding prisoners of war, as well as an active Women’s Land Army. Malpas was also a place of refuge for several evacuee children. Jubilee Hall, in the village centre, was used as a temporary school.

“Although thousands of enemy aircraft droned through the skies over Malpas on their way to raid Liverpool only 30 miles away, no one was killed in Malpas as a result of enemy action and not one house was destroyed by bombing,” says local historian and author, David Hayns.

“However, many local men and women went away on war service, both in this country and abroad, some of them never to return. Malpas families were subject to the rigours of wartime restrictions, suffered the frustrations caused by the shortages of such commodities as food, petrol and coal, and became used to seeing many new faces from the outside world, including evacuee children from Liverpool and London, soldiers from Czechoslovakia, Poland and the USA, and Italian and German prisoners of war.

“With so many men and women removed from the community, those remaining had to work harder than ever before. Many took on a variety of jobs including transporting prisoners of war from Tarporley to work on farms in the area. By the end of the war Malpas as a community had changed considerably.”

It was Malpas’s role in the war effort that spurred the locals into organising the special event to mark VE Day, as well as to bring the era back to life and share what life was like in the early 1940s. The Malpas VE75 Committee wanted to replicate the euphoria experienced as troops returned home in 1945.

Despite having to postpone, the community hasn’t dwelled on the disappointment – it is not their way. Malpas has a long history of community events: in 1943 Malpas & District launched Wings for Victory Week to raise money for 10 Spitfires in WW2 and many subsequent community activities including flower festivals and a street parade including more than 100 horses. Regular readers of Cheshire Life may recall coverage of another commemoration, held in November 2018, to mark 100 years of the end of the First World War. Villagers also organised a spectacular to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, proving they are a community well versed in galvanising others into action.

“I’m sure there are many villages just like us who are brilliant at working together and being a proper community,” says Chris. “But I do think we are incredibly lucky in Malpas to have so many wonderful people who want to make this the best place it can be.”

It is hoped the rescheduled celebration will take place on September 5th, with hundreds of local folk flooding onto the streets to take part in the many different events. It will be an opportunity to remember the fallen and celebrate Victory in Europe. But for Chris, the event will have further meaning.

“We won’t just be celebrating our victory in the war, we’ll also be celebrating our victory over this awful virus that currently has us all in its grip,” 
he says. “We are very much looking forward to the day when this can happen, a time when we can all come together as a community to mark something very special.”

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