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: Students’ Edition

During the Second World War children were evacuated from large towns and cities to homes in less vulnerable parts of the country. Large towns and cities were expected to be bombed, as enemy planes tried to destroy ports, airfields and factories. But bombs do not discriminate, and homes and schools were also likely to be bombed, and young children would be in danger. The government formed a policy at the start of the war in September 1939 to send children away from their homes to safer places to protect them from air raids by the German bombers. This was known as 'evacuation'. About 800,000 children left their homes. Although many returned home after a few weeks others stayed in smaller less vulnerable towns or in the country for the rest of the war. Can you think of why it was also known as ‘Operation Pied Piper’?

There were two towns which evacuated many of the children to Lincoln, where they were ‘billeted’ (given a temporary home) and sent to local schools. Some of the younger children went to primary schools in Lincoln, and the older children attended secondary schools such as Lincoln School, the Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School, and South Park Girls’ High School.

The Garton Archive at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School contains details of pupils form Leeds and Coventry who were billeted in Lincoln, and who attended Lincoln School and the Christ’s Hospital High School. Most of the information is contained in the magazines of both schools, but there are still some people alive who remember the evacuees, and who have stories to tell.

The Christmas 1939 edition of the Lincoln School magazine tells us that, despite the beginning of the war, the School opened as usual early in September. Trenches and air-raid shelters had been hurriedly dug and constructed thanks to many volunteers who had offered their help. Although Lincoln was thought to be less at risk than Leeds and Coventry, there was still the possibility that the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) might bomb the industries in the town.

When the pupils and teachers returned to Lincoln School they found that it had changed greatly. Roundhay Secondary School in Leeds had been evacuated to Lincoln, and Lincoln School had to share its accommodation. This meant that for the first three weeks Lincoln School boys only attended school in the mornings. They must have been devastated! The picture below shows Roundhay High School as it was in those days.

 

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Over half of Roundhay’s pupils stayed at home in Leeds while the rest were evacuated to Lincoln.

Professor Garton, who was responsible for setting up the Archive at LCHS, informed us in his records that 260 boys from Roundhay School were evacuated to Lincoln School, but that the number fell to 220 because some parents decided to take the risk of taking their children back to Leeds. Headmaster Mr G 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. Can you hear the cries of ‘Shame!’?

Lincoln School , like other schools at the time, suffered from several masters (teachers) having been ‘called up’ to serve in the war. Mr Adams, for example, was replaced as History Master by Mr Hindley of Roundhay School. The Lincoln School magazine welcomed the guests from Roudhay, and offered the pupils the opportunity to record their impressions of Lincoln. Early memories are recorded in The Lincolnian, Magazine. These older boys obvious had a flair for poetic writing!               

‘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.’

Perhaps you would like to imagine what it must have been like to have been transported (usually by train and bus) away from your home and your parents to a strange home in a town 90 miles away and with adults you had never met? Perhaps you will have read novels such as ‘Carrie’s War’, or ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ which provide fictional accounts of what life must have been like for those young children. Some of the older ones were obviously bored, and looked around for something to do:

‘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 comfortable homes in Leeds, they seemed to retain a sense of humour as this, as this short story    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!’

The photograph below shows Mr Paul Filton when he was 21, and serving in the Forces. In 1939 he was evacuated to Lincoln from Roundhay School in Leeds, and was billeted with Mr and Mrs Scoffins who lived at 37 Browning Drive in Lincoln, and was taught at Lincoln School on the LCHS site.

 

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We also know from the records in the Garton Archive at LCHS 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. The December 1940 edition of the Lincoln School magazine 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 printed in the magazine:

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

The ‘sixth moderns’ were sixth form pupils who studied subjects such as Physics, Chemistry and Maths. Other pupils who studied English, History, Geography, French, Latin and Greek, for example, were known as the Sixth Classics.

Mr Richard Lucas, who was a young pupil at Lincoln School at the time, has vague memories of the “strange” boys being in the playground, while the following account evokes some of the memories of evacuees from Coventry;

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.

 

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

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.’

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. They say that history begins in your own back yard, and it is exciting to know that evacuees during the First World War will have lived in their temporary homes on the St Giles Estate and elsewhere in Lincoln, and that they had lessons in two of the schools which combined with the St Giles schools in 1974 to from what is now known as Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School.

You might also be interested in the poem below, which was written by a pupil at the Christ’s Hospital Girls’ High School, Evelyn Maddock. You might wish to consider whether it was based on a true story, or written with tongue in cheek, or heavy irony. You might also wish to consider the feelings of evacuees reading the poem. The poem was published in the Christmas 1939 edition of the LHS magazine.

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.

Recommended Reading

Carrie’s War, by Nina Bawden published by Puffin Books in 1973

Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian, published by Harper & Row 1981

Why not look up these books on the Internet and read the ‘blurbs’. You can also read comments from other readers on how they enjoyed the stories. You can often learn just as much from a good children’s historical novel as you can from reading a text or information book. Reading both ‘genres’ will only add to your knowledge and understanding.

Peter Harrod

Assistant Archivist at LCHS