Haslingfield School and the World Wars

The First World War barely merited a mention in the Haslingfield School Log Book. The first mention is in June 1918 when the Head Teacher, George Royston, announced “I have given up the charge of this school today, as I am joining the Colours on Thursday next.” George returned to school duty in February of the following year.

World War II had a greater and more immediate impact upon the school. School started a day early in September 1939 to accommodate 20 evacuees from London. Some returned home within the week, but new ones arrived to boost the school register to 131. By the end of October, with no enemy bombing of London, most had returned home. A new crisis, with the German invasion of Belgium and Holland in May 1940, led to emergency arrangements being made for children unable to get home in the event of an air raid – the cellars of the Vicarage were requisitioned as ARP shelters. In the autumn term air-raid practice was started, and there were a number of alerts in the next couple of months. A member of staff joined the school from Surrey LEA to cope with a new influx of evacuees in November 1940.

In July 1941 the fiance of one of the staff was on board a merchant cruiser that was torpedoed, but happily he was rescued. In 1942 schools were given the task of distributing extra clothing coupons to those children taller than 63″, heavier than 101 lbs. and with feet sizes seemingly over 8 and 7 eighths. 29 Haslingfield pupils qualified out of a roll of about 120. In July 1944 German flying bombs started to fall on London, bringing a new influx of evacuees. Finally, to mark the end of the war, two days’ holiday was given on May 9th and 10th, 1945.

Although it is not mentioned in the Log Book, the Head Teacher Eric Cole was very active in the Haslingfield Home Guard. As well as coping with clothing coupons, Eric also managed the introduction of a school meals service during the war, which often involved him in serving and washing up. For a man whose health appeared to be quite fragile at times, Mr. Cole had a very full and wearing war.

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Comments (1)

  • NEVILLE JAMES COLE

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    Dear Sirs,
    Following a random visit to the village website I was drawn to the school history.
    The wartime references interested me. If I may say, it would appear that the
    role played by my father, Eric Cole, is damning with faint praise. There is no
    mention that mother, Madge Cole, gave unstinting support at the time. With
    exteremely limited resources they did what was needed. Combining educating
    the village’s children, and commanding the Home Guard. My late brother,
    Gregory was but a small child at the time.
    Father’s health was not fragile. Like so many he put huge energy into his
    responsibilities. War’s end brought the start of recuperation after its
    demands. He continued as headmaster until retirement in 1966, after 36
    unbroken years of service. Perhaps in today’s world such service would
    have been officially recognised? Having done the best he could, with mother
    alongside, in the job he enjoyed, the recognition and appreciation of those
    he taught and helped was the ultimate award.
    There’s more that could be added to my parents’ involvement in the village,
    which may already be known.
    The churchyard is the resting place for father, mother and brother.

    Neville James Cole
    23/01/2011

    Reply

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