Memories from former pupil Bruce Townsend
Places in the south east of England were uncomfortably close to enemy occupied Europe and especially vulnerable to attack by enemy aircraft and later, by unmanned missiles. It was therefore decided that children from these areas should be evacuated to safer areas. Belper was regarded as such a place and became the temporary home for children from Westcliffe on Sea. Their education was continued with the same teachers but they had no premises and had to share the buildings used by local pupils.
The arrangement at Belper was that local children had the premises in the morning whilst the visitors took over after lunch. Younger Belper children were allowed to go home but with masses of homework to do, whilst fifth and sixth formers continued classes held in various premises around Belper, including some churches.
One of the disadvantages of not having your own desk was that all the equipment needed for the days schooling had to be carried round in one’s satchel. If you notice that a high proportion of people of a certain age in the Belper area have round shoulders this could be the reason!
Air raid shelters were constructed to provide some measure of protection from enemy bombing. They were of no protection against a direct hit but did avoid damage from blast and shrapnel. The school shelters were across the road, by the Playing Fields. Since daytime enemy raids were sudden and unexpected, I regarded this arrangement as totally useless.
There could be no swimming lessons as the swimming baths in Gibfield Lane were drained and boarded over to serve as office premises. The writer’s sister-in law worked there as a Tracer for Rolls-Royce. Tracer? – another lost profession- -let’s not go there!
Teaching was a Reserved Occupation, meaning that teachers were exempt from serving the period of compulsory National Service obligatory for many adults. However some people decided not to take advantage of the scheme and did their stint. An example was Mr Pine, the appropriately named woodwork teacher.