Wednesday, 14 November 2018

October Members Meeting

A SCHOOLGIRLS WAR


Members at the October monthly meeting were taken back to the darker days of the Second World War and its impact on the teachers and pupils of Maidstone Grammar School for Girls.

The inspiration for this nostalgic talk by Mary Smith, a former headteacher of the school were the bright colour drawings by Miss Keen, the Art Teacher at the time. These were subsequently incorporated in the War Diary produced shortly after the war and reproductions of these drawings depicting life before, during and just after the war were shown throughout the talk. 

They vividly showed the daily existence during those troubled times starting with the building of a brand new spacious school just before war broke out until the removal of the wartime attachments from the school after the war ended. 

We heard how the school soon had to be shared with girls evacuated from London - even though Maidstone itself was a target for the Luftwaffe and saw, through the often humorous drawings, how staff and girls adapted to the changed circumstances. This included protective shielding for the school and lessons being adapted to fit in with the blackout as well as the steps that had to be taken if the alert was sounded. 

Of critical importance when this happened were the air raid shelters which were installed in February 1940. During air raids, lessons took place in these shelters and although in a zig zag shape to minimise injuries in the event of a direct hit these also enabled different lessons to take place at the same time - although the speaker admitted that minimising noise from competing classes could be difficult! She advised that for many years after the war there was rubble blocking what was thought to be one of those shelters. When this was finally cleared, the shelter was found to be still in existence and in excellent condition. As a result it was now used for educational purposes to show current students what it was like in those days. 

In conclusion we were told that more recently some students from those days had recently returned to the school and we were shown photos of the "old girls" (as they call themselves) back down in the shelter they hadn't seen for over 70 years - recreating their experiences of those days. A poignant end to a fascinating talk