I started my education at West Mersea Council School, Barfield Road in the spring of 1937. I was a very reluctant starter and after several failed attempts my father loaded me on to the back seat of his bicycle in the pretence of going to East Mersea to visit Auntie Nellie. We were
living in Barfield Road at the time and as we sailed off down the road, before reaching Co-op Corner dad did a sharp right turn in through the school gates. I screemed and I kicked but I had started school. I don't remember details but I guess as with most young children in this
situation as soon as the parent leaves they soon calm down.
The infants class was in the room next to the school house. There was a low curtain screen dividing the room into two - 'Babies' one side and infants the other. There were no early years in those days, we started at the age of five and left when we were fourteen.
The playground was divided by a wooden fence, girls in the top half and boys in the lower part. The infants all went in with the girls.
At Christmas there was a school concert at the British Legion Hall and rehearsals began some time before. The infants were to play in a percussion band of trianges, tambourines, drums etc. I was given a drum and during rehearsals Ron Bacon said his cymbals made a louder noise than my drum. Not to be outdone I banged my drum as loud
as I could. Thats how I was moved from the drum to be conductor - about the quietest job I could have.
After two years war was declared. The first big change I remember was the arrival of the evacuees from the East end of London. They arrived outside the school in buses having come from Colchester railway station and as we often see TV programmes of them with large cardboard labels tied on. This must have been a terrible ordeal for them especially the young ones being taken away from their parents and going out to the country away from town life.
There seemed to be as many evacuees as there were local children and their teachers came with them. We had to share the school and when they were having their lessons there we had games in the British Legion Hall, or lessons in the school gardens if the weather was fine. On arrival
they were taken in groups and billeted to local families of those that had spare rooms and even some that didn't. By that time we had moved into a new bungalow in Suffolk Avenue and we had sister and brother placed with us. We were given a quantity of rations and the older girl
of about nine years old settled quite well but when their uncle, aunt and mother visited after about the first week the young boy went home with them.
I can't recall how long they stayed in Mersea and I believe they gradually trickled back home and we had our school back full time. The air raids had started and when the siren was sounded we had to leave our lessons and go across Barfield Road, a pedestrian crossing was installed
for the purpose, through the school gardens and into the ditch seperating the two school fields which at that time were seperated by a metal fence. Eventually four brick air raid shelters were built behind the British Legion and the metal fence was removed for the war effort.
On one occasion we were being hurried through the school gardens and there was a battle going on overhead between the RAF and the Luftwaffe with machoine guns rattling. Us boys all wanted to stop and watch but our teachers had other ideas and hurried us along to the safety of the
We were all issued with gas masks which had to be with us at all times. These came in cardboard boxes which soon disintegrated especially when used as footballs and the like and a large array of different cases appeared. We had to do gas mask practice and sit in class wearing them.
Fortunately they were never needed.
The above picture shows the school concert in the British Legion Hall - believed to be Christmas 1937 with conductor Ron Green taking the bow. Our costumes were bright red with black buttons.
Others in the band include - Ronnie Daw, John Mussett, Betty Procter, Josie Weaver, Valerie Farthing, Mary Milgate, Pam Greenleaf, Dorothy Brown, Ann Martin, Basil Underwood and Dudley Woods.
Image courtesy of Valerie Iskra (née Farthing)
Go to Part 2
Published in Mersea Life May 2013.