Dorset House students experience life of a World War Two evacuee

DH evacuees

DH evacuees - Credit: Archant

Children in Year 4 at Dorset House, a prep school in West Sussex, stepped back in time to experience the life of an evacuee in World War Two.

As they listened to the broadcast by Chamberlain that war had been declared they began their adventure. Gas masks were tried on and diaries were started to record their thoughts and feelings. As the days passed and they heard of the safe return of a family member from Dunkirk and the brave struggle of a cousin in his Spitfire to battle in the skies to protect our country, the Blitz began. The children’s lessons were disturbed by the sound of sirens and enemy aircraft. They were ushered in an orderly fashion to the shelter in the grounds where they sat crushed and anxious as they waited for the ‘All Clear’. They were informed that they were to be evacuated for their own safety.

Complete with name labels, gas mask boxes and suitcases they gathered on the platform of Pulborough railway station. As the train pulled in, they bade farewell to parents and clambered aboard, accompanied by teachers. Many waved excitedly from the window of the carriage but there still was a moment of anxiety as the familiar faces of parents disappeared.

Once they arrived at Amberley, the children began their walk along the river bank to school. Cases were heavy and some struggled, sharing their load with friends.

At The Manor they were greeted by `Lord and Lady Marconi’. Postcards were written home to reassure parents of their safe arrival. Demonstrations were given of how to make their beds properly with clean sheets and blankets and finally they enjoyed the welcome dinner provided by local people. We explained that food was rationed and of course, children were asked for their identity cards and ration books. The meal of cottage pie and apple crumble was gratefully received.

The evening passed with games of beetle drive and charades and finished with a wartime singsong accompanied by the Fr David Twinley and his accordion.

The morning came with rationed breakfast of tea, porridge and toast. The Rainbow Theatre Company organised the children in a drama workshop with role play. As the week continued, so did the rationing of food, with spam fritters and the children cooking their own soup and wartime biscuits.

The pupils learned to knit and used old clothes for ‘Make-do and Mend’. For maths they worked out rations and used imperial weights.

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Has it been fun? The children always say `yes.’ Have they learned a lot about the war? The answer is also `yes.’ Have they gained a sense of what it must have been like in the war? I think that they have and maybe (hopefully) they will have been inspired to discover more of our rich history.


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