Delia Whitehead: War years at Yarmouth School

There was a large brick building across the playground that was used as an air raid shelter. When the siren went off, the drill was to stand up, pick up your gas mask and then a little mat that was hung on a hook. It was sort of felt on one side and rubber stuff on the other. This was to sit on, as the seat in the brick building was very cold. We then marched to the shelter and sang silly songs, said our times-tables and listened to stories until the all-clear.

Another rather frightening thing I remember. One day, a big black van came to the school and we had to go and sit in it, about six children at a time, with our gas masks on. This was for them to test that they were working all right. They did not explain to us that it was nothing that would harm us. One young boy got so frightened that he was sick down his gas mask and had to be taken home.

One bit we did like was every so often, a lady used to arrive dressed in a green dress and a broad-rimmed green hat. I think she was from the Women’s Voluntary Service. We were given a piece of stiff paper that, with help, had to be made into a cone shape. Then the lady filled it with chocolate powder, folded the top over and we were supposed to take it home but the teacher turned a blind eye to the fact that many fingers were licked and poked down into the chocolate powder, to say nothing of the odd tongue. Not a great deal of the powder reached home, I might add!

Then there was the school war effort. One of the things done was that every so often, we were asked to bring a bag or tin dish to school, and we went to an area that is now the old train line path, to pick wild rose hips. These were to be made into rose hip syrup. But I don’t know which was worse, the insects that bit us or the boys! They would break the rose hips open to get the itching powder out and put it down the girls’ backs when the teacher was not looking. But the hips that did not drop on the ground or get put down people’s backs finally were taken back to school and weighed.

A few evacuees came to live in Yarmouth during the war years. I made friends with one little girl the day she arrived and we have been friends to this day.
Delia Whitehead nee Hunt b 1934

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