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Farnham Primary pupils step back in time to Second World War





A history lesson came to life for children at Farnham Church of England Primary School.

The pupils were transported back to October 1940 and transformed into Second World War refugees from east London in an echo of the parish's past.

They arrived at class with Government-issued travel labels and gas masks. Carrying their favourite teddy or doll and a sandwich wrapped in greaseproof paper, the children were taken into the hall, where they met the headmistress, Miss Senior, and the rest of the village children and teaching staff.

Farnham Primary School in 2022 (59937510)
Farnham Primary School in 2022 (59937510)

There, the billeting officer told the children which host families they would be going to at the end of the day.

Siblings and best friends were split up as youngsters were sent to class to complete reading, writing and arithmetic tasks before enjoying playtime of traditional games like Happy Families, Snap, Noughts and Crosses and Four Square, played with a ball and chalk.

When an air raid siren sounded, the pupils hid under desks. Their immersive experience also included trying on original wartime military helmets and examining gas masks – including one for a baby.

Air raid wardens (59937520)
Air raid wardens (59937520)

The day was organised as part of a Years 5 and 6 project on the last global conflict. Teacher Sara Haughey took the role of Miss Senior to make the event as authentic as possible.

She said: "Farnham is a unique village school which has been here since the 1800s. Some years ago, whilst clearing an unused room upstairs, a box of 'history' was discovered.

"Alongside various papers and photos, a logbook was found which contained a daily entry written by the headteacher and covered entries during the 1930s and 1940s.

"From these records, we found that Farnham received many evacuees at the school during the war and these children were billeted to local families.

A photo from around 1941 of pupils, staff and evacuees in front of Farnham school's Victorian building (59937508)
A photo from around 1941 of pupils, staff and evacuees in front of Farnham school's Victorian building (59937508)

"A wonderful photograph was found from around 1941 of children, staff and evacuees in front of its Victorian building. We decided to replicate that photo with our children on our evacuation day.

"We also discovered fascinating facts on air raids that took place and how they affected the school."

In one entry in October 1940, the head wrote: "Play curtailed because of aerial battle close at hand. Machine gun firing heavy. No time for shelter – ducked under desks and tables."

Stepping back into history (59937512)
Stepping back into history (59937512)

James Watts, Chloe Chopping, Noah McGary and Chloe Mayes from Horse Chestnut class were air raid wardens for the day.

"It had so much more significance for them because they were in the exact same room, with the same walls, doors and windows as those children had been 82 years before," said Sara.

Old fashioned games (59937516)
Old fashioned games (59937516)

"The children at our school are incredibly lucky to have so much history around them every day. They're fascinated that they're being taught in the very same building that children were during the First and Second world wars as well as Victorian children.

"They've loved reading the entries from the logbook and seeing it written in beautiful handwriting."

A picture to send home (59937518)
A picture to send home (59937518)

A punishment book from 1902 has also been discovered, showing how bad behaviour was dealt with in a very different way during that era.

The logbook, punishment book, photos and children's work will be on display at an open morning for parents of prospective pupils on Thursday (Oct 13). See www.federationfarnhamrickling.co.uk for details.



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