Lincoln Christ's Hospital School

Lincoln Christ's Hospital School
Educating in Lincoln since 1090

 

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World War 2 Evacuation to Lincoln

From the Garton Archive: Item of Interest No 15

The School Notes in the Christmas 1939 edition of The Lincolnian magazine recorded that, despite the difficulties, the School opened as planned in early September. Trenches and shelters had been hurriedly dug and constructed thanks to a noble response to the appeal for voluntary labour.

Pupils and masters returned to a School that had changed greatly. Roundhay School in Leeds had been evacuated to Lincoln, and Lincoln School shared its facilities to such an extent that for the first three weeks Lincoln School boys only attended morning school. They must have been devastated! As the School Notes put it, ‘...the baser souls rejoiced greatly’.

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Roundhay High, a science orientated school, shared use of a school building in Lincoln which offered a classical education. Over half of Roundhay’s pupils stayed in Leeds and were provided with no education. (Source: Project Inspire website; Evacuation in Leeds)

Professor Garton’s highly informative Abstract of Governors’ Minutes recorded that 260 boys from Roundhay School were evacuated to Lincoln School, but that the number had fallen to 220 on account of some parents taking their children back to Leeds. Headmaster Franklin also reported that the Bailgate Wesleyan Schoolrooms had been obtained for the use of Roundhay School, and that from 2nd October 1939 both schools would be resuming the normal 150 hours instead of half-time as at present.

Lincoln School was no exception in suffering from several masters having been ‘called up’, and Mr ‘Chick’ Adams was temporarily replaced as History Master and Housemaster of Abbott by Mr C Hindley of Roundhay School. In a later edition of The Lincolnian, an appreciation of Mr Hindley’s energy and enthusiasm was recorded as he left Lincoln for what would hopefully be ‘a more settled life’ .

The Lincolnian magazine was privileged to afford the guests from Roundhay the opportunity to place on record their impressions of Lincoln, and thus to carry on, in part at least, the publication of their own magazine. Early memories are recorded on pages 21-23 of The Lincolnian, in which thanks are offered to the editor ‘…for billeting yet another evacuee –‘The Roundhegian’. Among many poetic images, the following had a particular appeal;

                ‘We are staunch Yorkshiremen; the sooty air of Leeds is still our natural habitat, and Briggate will always be our Mecca; but nonetheless for that, ancient Lincoln has cast its spell upon us. The great tower rising from the mists seems to summon the waking city to her feet; Brayford glittering in autumn sunshine; the Witham, brown and muddy after a storm, bustling impatiently through the Glory Hole; the butter-women, neat and rosy-cheeked, sitting amid their delectable wares in the market on a Friday; the story of Lincoln for two thousand years and more written plainly in every street; all these are indelible pictures already hung in the rooms of our memory.’

                ‘Many of us, waking in Leeds beneath a grey, dismal, dripping sky, deemed that the summer was now over…it is the same day, but the scene has shifted to Lincoln. It is evening…and we, who wearily tramp from billet to billet, laden with our rations of bully-beef, our ruck-sacks, our overcoats, our winter woollies and the like. At last our numbers begin to dwindle. One of our party finds shelter here, another there, two more there. Now it is our turn. We meet our hosts, hoping fervently that we are not looking our best. Our room? Yes, we should very much like to see it. And mumbling a grateful good-night, we creep between the cool sheets.’

‘While the arrangements for our schooling were incomplete, a dozen of us grew tired of inactivity and looked around for a job. We had no trouble in finding one – harvesting at Burton. It was back-breaking work at first. Our job was to pull apart stooks (pronounced ‘stowks’ in Lincolnshire) and turn up the butts of the sheaves, so that the sodden straw might be dried by wind and sun. And then we had to cart them off and stack them. How the sharp ends of the straw pricked our hands and arms. And how near our enthusiasm came to extinction when we started to work in a fresh field – maybe of twenty acres. Fortunately little diversions appeared form time to time to break the monotony and alleviate the heaviness of the task; a chase after baby rabbits; the antics of a field mouse; lunch in the shade of a haystack; and at long last the journey home in the cool of the evening, after six hours in the broiling sun.’

‘I suppose few of us had ever gazed upon a more peaceful scene than the level fields in front of us, with Burton Church rising from the woods beyond. Far off, on the horizon, the towers of Lincoln Cathedral broke the smooth line of Lincoln Edge. Yet it was war that had brought us here; it was in a way war-work that we were doing; and even the sounds of war were loud in our ears. Bombers roared and wheeled over our heads. Bren guns clattered noisily in the distance. The contrast, the antithesis of peace and war were sharply and constantly presented to our senses, and we became grateful for the steady, laborious task that helped to sooth our unquiet minds.’

Despite the ‘unquiet’ of those young minds, cruelly transported from their comfort zone in Leeds, a sense of humour was preserved, as this short story (possibly apocryphal?)   shows;

                Evacuated master:   ‘And how do you propose to spend the afternoon?’

                Evacuated boy:   ‘I’m going for a walk up this road, sir.’

                Master:   ‘Towards Nettleham, then?’

                Boy:   ‘Oh, does this road lead to Nettleham, sir?’

                Master:   ‘Of course. Why do you suppose it’s called Nettleham Road?’

                Boy:   ‘Well, sir, Geneva Avenue doesn’t lead to Geneva!’

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Paul Filton, aged 21, who in 1939 was evacuated from Rounday School, Leeds to Lincoln, where he was billeted with Mr Arthur and Mrs Margaret Scoffins of 37 Browning Drive Lincoln, and attended Lincoln School (Source: Lincs to the Past)

In the absence of any hard evidence from the written records, although we can appeal to the memories and experience of our readers, we can only make some inferences at this stage. It is assumed that Roundhay School might have returned to Leeds in the summer of 1943, or possibly moved to another school elsewhere. What we do know is that some pupils from another school, Bablake School in Coventry, arrived in Lincoln following the Coventry blitz on 14th November 1940, which caused so much damage to the school library that the only item to remain intact was a page from a German dictionary (Wikipedia). The December 1940 edition of the Lincoln welcomed the boys of Bablake School, who had made their home at Lincoln School following the bombing of their own School. The following letter was also published:

Bablake School,

(Coventry),

South Park, Lincoln

Dear Sir,

Now that we of Bablake School are more or less settled in our South Park quarters, we feel we owe more to Lincoln School than mere verbal thanks; and though this epistle arrives late, the sentiment suffers not a whit on that account.

When we first arrived in Lincoln, we resigned ourselves to weeks of idleness before studies could be resumed. But Lincoln School offered us temporary accommodation, and we were incorporated with them until our own books and furniture arrived. We thank your Headmaster for enabling us to work in the library; we thank all the masters who loaned books to us, some drawn from their own libraries; we thank the School librarian for allowing us the use of the School library; the prefects for their hospitality and co-operation; the tuckshop and milk authorities for allowing us equal privileges with the Lincoln boys; and finally, we thank the whole School for entertaining us so ably on that Saturday afternoon when nature seemed to forbid any form of enjoyment.

Our fortnight with you was one of many experiences which have convinced us of the warmth of Lincoln hospitality. We still cherish the hope that in happier times we may be able to repay our debt to you.

Yours sincerely,

The Sixth Moderns

Richard Lucas, who was a pupil in the Prep Department at Lincoln School at the time, has vague memories of the “strange” boys being in the playground. However It would seem that not all the Bablake evacuees were given temporary education at Lincoln School There are several references to Bablake in the book ‘Dear South Park’ in which several members of staff and pupils of both South Park Girls’ High School and Bablake School have recorded their memories. Richard Lucas has informed me that this the evacuees would have been accommodated in the old huts on South Park where the South Park High School girls would have been taught before the new building on Cross o’ Cliff Hill were completed in 1938. Apparently at least one marriage ensued from a relationship begun in Lincoln. The following extract from a website, copied from the Lincolnshire Echo, places the visit in context:

The first provincial Blitz of the War was on Coventry on November 14th 1940. Among the many buildings damaged was the Bablake School where the library was completely burnt out. The air-raid shelter suffered a direct hit and several members of the public were killed. The School was closed for a few days until plans were made for the future. One of the teachers, Horace Curt, came home to Lincoln where he happened to meet the Lincoln Director of Education who offered them the use of the old school on South Park which had eight classrooms available.

On November 23rd 1940, 297 boys and the Staff arrived in Lincoln by train and were welcomed by the Mayor and the Director of Education. Buses took the boys to the City School where billets were allocated to them throughout Lincoln. The furniture arrived on December 3rd and school work was started six days later. A maximum of 558 pupils attended.

Tony Averns was one of a group of Bablake ex-pupils who visited Lincoln in 1990 on the 50th anniversary of the evacuation. He told me that he really enjoyed his war-time stay in Lincoln. He was billetted in Rookery Lane for a year or so, and then on Skellingthorpe Road at Swanpool.

The Bablake boys used the facilities (including the pool) at South Park Girls High School and the laboratories at the City School on Monks Road and the Grammar School on Wragby Road. He remembers the Westwick Estate bombing in May 1941 and a British plane being shot down near Lincoln. Many of the Coventry boys had bicycles and visited local aerodromes to see the aircraft being prepared for flights. Usually they went to R.A.F. Skellingthorpe (Birchwood), but also went as far as Waddington and Swinderby.

As the years pass, former Bablake evacuees can put the memories of war aside and remember the good times in Lincoln. School life is a favourite topic among them.

They were housed at South Park Girls High. The buildings were run down and the roof leaked, but some former pupils say this actually worked to their advantage. Ronald Baber said "In the early days, we used to pray for rain. "The roof leaked in so many places that we were given an extra holiday or taken en masse to the cinema if a suit able film was showing. "I remember going to the Savoy cinema between the Stonebow and Lindum Hill to see Elizabeth and Essex on one such occasion." Philip Hodgkinson said he remembered seeing unsuitable films for schoolboys, such as Howard Hawk's violent gangster movies, Scarface.

"After this had happened a few times, we had to become more hardy and moved away from the many drips, dribbles and cascades, some of which were caught in strategically placed buckets."

With sports facilities lacking on South Common, pupils had to substitute rugby which was popular among them but virtually unknown in Lincoln. Mr. Baber said some on the sixth formers enjoyed their own personal interpretation of the word "sports" - taking a short walk across the common to meet girls at their new South Park School.

Howard Skinner remembers being one of the senior boys on firewatching duty at the school looking out for incendiary bombs landing on the city. This duty was carried out all over Lincoln. "We tried hot to visualize the effect of a stick of Incendiary bombs on the timber and corrugated iron structure." He said. We used to listen to the radio in the staff room, stay awake all night if we wanted to and smoke cigarettes - usually either American army surplus or some frightful Turkish brand from the slot machine on the High Street. Some boys also were led astray during the school certificate exams, they went out one evening claiming they were going to the library to study. Mr. Baber said they did study but not at the library. They headed instead to the theatre Royal where Phyllis Dixie the famous stripper was appearing.

With rationing making sweets almost impossible to buy, many of the pupils remember being able to get a bag broken crisps. The Smith's Crips factory sold them for half a penny or a penny. (www.chascook.com: from the Lincolnshire Echo February 1998)

There is one further reference to Bablake School in The Lincolnian magazine. In September 1943, thirty-two beds with bedding were loaned to Lincoln School by Bablake School, after the School returned to Coventry. The beds were later purchased from Bablake at the end of the war.

(See picture below)

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Boys from Bablake School billeted with Mr and Mrs Atkinson at Witham View hostel

Source: www.chascook.co.uk

Footnote: Legendary master Mr E M (‘Wearie’) Williams taught at Bablake School before taking up his appointment at Lincoln School in 1919. He retired in 1952.

Of course girls were also evacuated to Lincoln, and the Headmistress of the Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School at the time, Miss Savill, has written a short paragraph for the year 1939;

‘In the beginning of September we welcomed Leeds Girls’ High School, evacuated here until the following Christmas. The schools worked in shifts, the Upper School of Leeds and Lincoln sharing the building on Saturday mornings.’

However the girls from Leeds did not stay in Lincoln for long, as the Summer 1940 edition of the School magazine has recorded that;

‘After an interesting experience in joint ownership we bade farewell to Leeds High School at the end of the autumn term and are interested to know that some of them have found another temporary home further in the country, where we wish them every happiness.’

Evelyn Maddock, writing in the same magazine, wrote of the ‘seemingly hopeless task’ facing two schools sharing the same accommodation, which was solved by a system of timetables arrived at ‘after much toil’ by the headmistresses and staffs of both schools. In spite of the fact that each school worked for only a half-day, apparently little work was lost. The schools did not mix very much during school hours, although both sixth forms found themselves sharing the Library on Saturday mornings. Many friendships were made, however, partly because many of the Leeds girls were billeted with the families of the Lincoln pupils. A number of matches were played between the two schools, with the results recorded in the magazine. Evelyn Maddock concluded her short article by reporting that the experience was interesting for both schools, and that LHS was sorry that they had to part, whilst recognising that the Leeds girls could once more live in their own beautiful school.

Jackie Milnes, a former pupil at LHS, remembers Evelyn Maddock as a bright pupil at the School, and a particularly good artist, who became Head Girl 1939-40 and went up to Oxford to read French. She also recalls that Mildred Lipman, who was a teacher at Leeds High School, came over with the evacuees and made her home in Lincoln, and built a career as a highly respected Senior Adviser for the Lincoln Education Committee.

Pam Hoyes, a contemporary of Jackie’s also remembers the Leeds girls in their green blazers. She recalls that the LHS girls worked in the mornings and the Leeds girls in the afternoons because of the pressure on classrooms and teaching staff.

Writing this article has given me poignant reminders of what it must have been like to be a school pupil during the war, and especially to be billeted with families some 90 miles away from home. Someone once wrote that history begins in your own back yard, and there is plenty of evidence in the Garton Archive of life during both World Wars at Lincoln School and the Girls’ High School, and also at the St Giles Secondary Modern Schools during the Second World War. As a result I will be adapting this article for use by students at LCHS in the hope that it will fuel their imaginations as they walk around the old school buildings.

Appendix

The following poem was published in the Christmas 1939 edition of the LHS magazine. It was also written by Evelyn Maddock, and perhaps reflects the ‘seemingly helpless task’ described above?

The Lazy Evacuee (A Moral Tale)

‘Tis of an evacuee I write

Who thought herself extremely bright.

She travelled southward (more’s the pity!)

Away from her own crowded city,

And her school shared another school.

Now this young lady was no fool,

(Or so she thought, but you will see

That really she did foolishly).

Her one desire was school to shirk,

And never waste her time in work.

When double-shift came in to force

She had a bright idea (of course!)

She bought two uniforms (one brown,

The one worn in her native town,

Another grey, for that was what

The school where she was put had got).

Now, when the grey school’s work was done,

She put on grey, and had some fun.

But when the greys went into school

(I said she thought herself no fool)

She doffed the grey, and donned the brown

And strolled in glee about the town.

The maiden’s life was blithe and gay

All through the year, right up to May.

But when the month July drew near

The bright one’s cheeks grew pale with fear.

For, so she’d told her family,

In this same dread month of July

She’d take her School Certificate.

And staring at her was the date

When she, and others of her age,

Should sit and fill page after page

With answers, but (alas for fun!)

She would not know a single one!

The moral of this tale is clear,

I should be boring you, I fear,

Should I recite it. I will stop,

But alas, her great plan was a flop.

Acknowledgement

My thanks to Richard and Mary Lucas, Jackie Milnes, Pam Hoyes and Donald Smellie for their memories of evacuees to Lincoln during the Second World War.

Peter Harrod

Assistant Archivist at LCHS