Education was disrupted for many school children during World War Two. Evacuation meant that schools in urban areas had to be shut; evacuees had to start at new schools and there was also the risk of an air raid warning during the school day.
Head teachers were given precise instructions on what to do in an air raid, as well as their responsibilities. All children had to know exactly what to do in the event of an air raid, whether at home or at school. While many children had shelters in their homes, it was also important that there were shelters in school grounds. In many cases, children chipped in to help build the shelters.
There were strict rules to follow in the event of an air raid siren sounding during the school day. Once the sirens sounded, the children had to remain in the school even if it was home-time. Only when the all clear was given was it safe for parents to collect them.
Madeleine Scott experience life at school during the Blitz. Here she gives an account of air raid practice:
“We all had to troop out. I think we had to put our, yes, of course we had to put our coats on. In twos holding hands because children always had to walk like that in those days. “Crocodiles” they’re called. I imagine it would be boys in one line and girls in the other because that, again, was the usual thing.
They were specially built shelters which were made of bricks, and they were made of strong cement rafts. I think the floor would be cement. Then brick walls, and then this flat cement roof. That’s what I seem to remember. There were benches inside and they were damp. And really they smelt disgusting which meant that cats and dogs used to go in there.”
Children also had to take regular gas drills at school. Former pupils and teachers often describe how difficult it was to take these drills seriously, especially owing to the fact that blowing through the rubber made ‘rude’ noises.
See also: Memories of Evacuation
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