Many large-scale national events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day today may have been put on hold. Nevertheless, we sincerely hope that all pupils and their families will unite together and pause for the national two-minute silence at 11am to mark this special Victory in Europe Day. As we commemorate all who died in the Second World War, we will especially remember with gratitude the 123 Millhillians who gave their lives serving their country and whose names are engraved on our Gate of Honour and in our Chapel.
When the Queen gives her broadcast at 9pm on Friday evening, let us also celebrate a moment in Mill Hill history when she visited the school 63 years ago in 1957 for our 150th anniversary. As photographs show, she planted a small cedar tree on Top Terrace. It now stands many metres high and acts as a symbol of vigour, endurance and growth, qualities at the heart of our school as we learn to be Mill Hill in new ways.
On this VE Day we recall that for the entire six years of the Second World War from 1939 to 1945, our school was closed and became a 610 bed military hospital, whilst pupils were evacuated for their own safety some 300 miles away to St Bees School in Cumbria. VE Day heralded the end of the war and in due course, enabled pupils to return to school – a cause for great joy, whilst mourning the sacrifice of so many lives. When eventually we return, it too will be a cause for celebration, albeit tempered with solemnity at so many lives lost to this disease.
In the meantime, as we cope with our own isolation and find innovative ways of being Mill Hill, these words from a former Headmaster resonate across the decades. Exactly 80 years ago this month in May 1940, Mr Rooker Roberts wrote the first of his 29 letters to parents, keeping them abreast of what was happening during the School’s enforced exile. He declared, “Mill Hill School means the pupils who compose it, and my aim is to get the best from the School for each pupil and from each pupil for the School.”
His words inspire and remind us that, although we are physically apart, we are still one community in spirit, and all united in the great adventure of education.