How did World War Two affect Banbury – at home and school? We reached the Second World War in our book about Dashwood’s history this week.
One chapter recounted the experiences of Banburian Annie Meadows, who attended Dashwood as a child and then as a teacher. She was given the task of settling the evacuees who arrived in Banbury with local families, and she took in two boys herself.
So what were the effects of the war on home life and school life? What was the evidence we could find from the book, and from our archive materials? The Book for Breakfast group members split into two teams to find out.
At home, the team pointed out that blackouts would have been frightening. Everyone had to have blackout curtains in their rooms to stop light spilling out and giving away the location of the town. Money was tight, and it must have been hard for Annie to ask families to take in the evacuees. The government only provided money for their food, and the children ended up being in Banbury for three years.
At school, the team noted that ‘overcrowding was still such a problem’, because of all the evacuee children. In fact, pupils only went to school on alternate days to ease the pressure. It was very cold during winters and ‘the water in the toilets froze’. There was ‘tape over the school windows’ in case of flying glass if a bomb fell. Children ‘had to wear gas masks on their backs’ and ‘had to practice putting on gas masks’ just in case. The school took ‘many precautions against air-raids’ but in fact ‘there was only one air raid near Dashwood, in 1940 at the gas works’.
The team found a newspaper cutting that showed the local people who attended a huge party on Dashwood’s playground at the end of the war. With many people in fancy dress, the photograph includes the grandmother of a pupil who went to Dashwood sixty years later.