As part of the school’s commemoration of VE Day, MCS is sharing first-hand accounts from pupils who were there on that unforgettable day 75 years ago.
Another of those pupils was Leo Goldschmidt (OW 1950), who joined MCS in 1942.
Leo’s family had fled from Brussels as the Nazis entered the city. A hazardous journey through Europe followed before Leo, his mother and his brother were able to board a convoy of ships leaving France.
The perils continued: not knowing where they were going, the young Leo watched another ship in the convoy being torpedoed with the loss of all hands.
Landing in Liverpool, the family went first to London, where they found themselves again in danger during the bombings of the Blitz, and then to the countryside, where a teacher recommended Leo for a scholarship at MCS.
This is Leo’s account of the moment the war was declared over:
“…on May the 7th, VE-day (Victory in Europe) was declared for the following day when the Germans would sign their unconditional surrender. At Magdalen, we were having prep in the dining hall, when a prefect rushed in shouting the news. There was immediate uproar, inkpots flew, and when silence was restored, the Master came in and said that there would be a special holiday and those who so wished would have permission to travel home to celebrate. For the first time during my stay at the school, I made the vast expenditure of a trunk call, and my mother said I could come to London for the occasion. On an advance by the Master, I immediately went to the station to buy a ticket.
"We were having prep in the dining hall, when a prefect rushed in shouting the news. There was immediate uproar, inkpots flew, and when silence was restored, the Master came in and said that there would be a special holiday."Leo Goldschmidt (OW 1950) recalling VE Day while at MCS
“I caught the last evening train to Paddington but when I got there, there was no further public transportation and had there been a taxi it would have been beyond my means. Hampstead Heath was far away, so I went to the nearest police station and told them of my predicament. The constable on duty was very understanding and said I was welcome to spend the night there – in the cell! – until transport reopened in the morning. He also gave a call home to leave a message so there would be no anxiety.
What he – and I – didn’t know was that my mother had come to Paddington to meet me. She saw other boys from Magdalen, recognisable by their redlined black blazers. I didn’t possess one which is perhaps why we missed each other. So she went home, on foot, and was waylaid once or twice by soldiers in high spirits who made her proposals she was nevertheless able to stave off. We were reunited in the morning and she was good enough to commend me for my police initiative. In the evening bonfires were lit in the streets. There was a fantastic atmosphere of joy, relief and lightness at the idea that it was all over.”
"There was a fantastic atmosphere of joy, relief and lightness at the idea that it was all over."Leo Goldschmidt (OW 1950) recalling VE Day while at MCS
In 2017 MCS recorded an oral history with Leo to capture his memories of wartime:
75 years on, Leo has become one of the school’s most generous donors and has supported several pupils through the school. He said of this “I made my contribution out of gratitude not only to MCS but also to the British government which, at the height of the War, still made it possible for a foreign and penniless refugee family to send their ten-year-old son to such a remarkable educational institution.”
"I made my contribution out of gratitude not only to MCS but also to the British government which, at the height of the War, still made it possible for a foreign and penniless refugee family to send their ten-year-old son to such a remarkable educational institution.”Leo Goldschmidt (OW 1950)
In 2017, he made the journey back to the school with his daughter Isabelle to meet with one of the pupils his gift had supported.
Since this visit, Leo has made further gifts to MCS. The school now has two endowed bursaries in Leo’s name. Whatever the future may hold, these funds mean the school will always be able to offer places to two pupils of talent into the future.
Thank you, Leo, for sharing your memories of VE Day with us and for your generous gifts to the school.