The Evacuation of the Elliott boys to Woking in 1939:- Our exit from the old school in Southfields was carried out in the traditions of the Elliott. Everything went like clockwork and nothing in the school became it like the leaving it. Our journey down to Woking was a crush, admittedly, but not the less an orderly crush, and the presence of mothers and helpers lent an air of gaiety to a scene which, but for Hitler’s hesitation, might have been exciting in another way.
But our arrival at Woking! There is no denying the disappointment which many of us felt in realizing that the Southern Railway had carried us so short a distance down the line. Perhaps the majority of us had hoped to take the air in Devonshire or Cornwall. Young Smithers, in Form 1., had fancied himself walking off Lands End in the direction of America – at least the size of his bag seemed to indicate this.
Well, with stout hearts we made our way in orderly files off the Woking platform and emerged in to the forecourt of the station. Here, hope revived, for facing us was a phalanx of motor buses. Judge of our dismay, then, when the clockwork precision of our movements was suddenly and irretrievably broken! For we were divided into sections, without rhyme or reason, and invited to board buses which carried us to the homes of the four winds. One party of us was taken to Maidenhead, another to Byfleet, another to Old Woking, while a fourth was bid walk in to the town of Woking itself! The clock had been dismembered: wheels, springs, hands had been flung off in different directions, at varying distances from the main axle.
The task of reassembling the machine seemed hopeless and efforts are still being made to bring the school together in one place. Long walks, urgent messages, tried tempers, have all made themselves evident. It only remains to say that, considering the seriousness of the separation, the school has done wonders. Maidenhead and West Byfleet have been lively and self-sufficient branches of the main school, and Old Woking has tramped or cycled daily to its labour with inexhaustible zest. We hear that there is a scheme afoot to bring us all together in a school of our own in Woking, but we must not begin counting unhatched chickens.
Note: this is a transcription of a document at the London Metropolitan Archives researched and copied by June Broomer (Austin).
We are extremely sorry that, owing to the sudden illness of his younger son, Mr. Llewellyn has had to return to London, and is unable to write ‘From The Headmaster’s Desk’ in this, a most unique number of “The Elliottonian”. For this is an Evacuation Number. And if it be thought presumptuous to endeavour to continue the issue of our magazine in such circumstances and at such a time, it is because “continuity” has been our watchword and our achievement since we have been evacuated.
Woking received us hospitably, but scattered us to the four winds. One party found itself at Maidenhead, another at Byfleet, another at Knaphill, yet another at Old Woking. But a main contingent at the Goldsworth Central School in the Goldsworth Ward of Woking formed a nucleus attracting more or less strongly the scattered parts, so that first one and then another were joined up.
Nor is this process finished, for the New Year should see the Byfleet section once more with us, and there are still hopes that we may welcome the prodigals from Maidenhead. So the Elliott School has continued as a School, and that a very live one. It was found possible for eleven members of the Fifth Year to take the Oxford Senior Schools Certificate, and that under the name of “Southfield Boys”. We sincerely hope that their efforts to preserve continuity under such duress of circumstances will be rewarded.
It is most pleasant, too, to be able to record the favourable impression made by the Elliottonians in their new home. From billetors we are receiving excellent testimonials of considerate behaviour and good manners.
But it must always be remembered that continuity in a school is a burning torch passed from hand to hand. We lost our Fifth Year, and the Fourth will soon takes its place. The traditions of the Elliott are ever in new hands. Before the critical view of the people of Woking, and amidst scenes far removed from Southfields, the greatest endeavour must be made to carry on and to follow on, until such time as we are permitted once more to assemble in our own hall and read yet again the familiar motto, “Manners Makyth Man”. This assuredly is the best of all wishes for 1940.
Then the footnote Our deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Llewellyn in the loss of their younger son. It was our privilege to know him during the day upon which we evacuated and we remember with gratitude the help he was able to render.
I had sincerely hoped that it would not be necessary for me to contribute this portion of the magazine this term, for I had trusted that Mr.Llewellyn would be with us once more. The great loss which he sustained in the death of his younger son compelled him to tender his resignation to the London County Council. We are extremely sorry to lose his kindly leadership. Few, if any, placed their trouble to him and did not receive patient consideration and timely help or advice. In return we give him our best wishes for a quiet, peaceful retirement - if possible in that spot in Wales which has always been dear to him and which is doubly so now.
Since Christmas we have had another “moving day”. One over which we had more control than the great moving day in September last. A Church School in St.John’s, near Woking, was placed at our disposal, and though it was a mere shell and lacked most of the refinements of modern school buildings, it gave us the great opportunity of being a complete school by ourselves, and the still greater opportunity of being able to work on a full time basis.
It was not long before the many necessary items of school furniture were sent from London and installed in the five classrooms and hall, and on Jan.22. the exodus from the Goldsworth Central School to the promised land at St.John’s was completed. Time has shown that our move to this new home was a wise one.
Movement has not been confined to the location of the school. Mr.McCaulay and Mr.Alexander left us early in February, not to fields and pastures new, but to bricks and mortar old, for they have returned to London. Mr.Cole has rejoined us from Maidenhead, but we are sorry that the long expected move of our contingent at Maidenhead has not yet been accomplished.
Our move to St.John’s has enabled us to restore another feature of our school organisation. We have pleasure in congratulating Artes, Chapple, Craggs and Corp on being elected prefects, and Franks on becoming School Captain. We would also like to make good an omission by tending our congratulations to Harold Roberts as winner of the Old Elliottonian Memorial Prize and to Ronald Bradley, John Gunner, Arthur Hathaway, Victor Proctor and Rueben Wheeler, who successfully gained the Oxford School Certificate.
Note: this is a transcription of a document at the London Metropolitan Archives researched and copied by June Broomer (Austin). Reproduced above is the original first page.
The Elliott Removes! On January 22nd. The Elliott Central School For Boys began work in the Old School, St.John’s Woking. This was a great thing for us, for it meant that the school had found a home for itself and was now working as a unit. No other school or member of another school was to be mixed with us and, although the association with other units had been pleasant and helpful in an uncertain time, yet we were glad to be at last alone and able to pursue our own aims without modification.
Yes, the Monday when we met for the first in the pleasant neighbourhood of St.John’s was a day never to be forgotten. All felt the importance of the occasion: a new lease of evacuated life which had been granted us. There were difficulties to start with, and there are still some difficulties. Two forms were without seats, and groups of boys were without desks. For a week the first and second years had to take what rest they could get by standing up and standing still. Presently the necessary material began to arrive from certain London schools, and both boys and masters were able to take school life a little more comfortably.
Then the shortage of coal. We were driven to fall back upon open coke fires which proved obstinate in combustion. Sanitation was primitive during the severe frosts and the open chimney-like ventilator in the temporary art-cum-science room was a perpetual torment. Now all is as it should be and no school could be happier in its immediate surroundings. Our dug-outs (air-raid shelters) are the best in Surrey: the brickwork and concrete being admirably constructed and with an unusual amount of care.
We are lucky, too, in having a very fine sports field within five minutes walk of the school. Our football team has played a small series of matches and a goodly number of cricket fixtures are promised us, no less a school than Eton being among those whom was shall meet.
Notes from the Elliott Boys’ School. It is nearly 18 months since we, the Boys, had the privilege of conveying news to you, the Girls, of our activities here in Woking. To begin with, our settlement at St.John’s, where we have a school building of our own, has been an unqualified success. The situation of the old Church School which we occupy amid sylvan surroundings and overlooking the old canal has much to recommend it. The aspect is west, and the playground gets the full power of the mid-day sun, one shelter being sunny, the other shady.
We have two excellent A.R.P (Air Raid Precaution) shelters in addition, such that the Oxford boys were able to do a good deal of their work in one of them. Electric light was a godsend and a luxury. There have been staff changes. Mr.Armitage, our Science master, has been called up to serve the country and is now busy on research work of a highly important character. Mr.Dowsett has left us temporarily to teach French.
Cricket and football have both flourished with us. Notable matches have been played against Eton and King Edward’s School. Matches against local schools and other teams have been played.
The Lido here is being provided with shelters so that it may be opened again in the summer months. But swimming is not confined to the “posh” and public places. We are able to retire to the Wey Canal at Trigg’s Lock and there, in greater seclusion, indulge in aquatics. The garden at the rear of the school has been a source of concentrated energy since Christmas. The ground has been dug and re-dug and early potatoes have been sown, as also broad beans, shallots, spinach, lettuce and herbs.
On the scholastic side we have the results of the Oxford to report, eleven boys obtaining the Certificate. Twenty boys are likely to be sitting for this same examination next December.
Finally, we should be glad to see over here any members of the Girls’ School – Staff or Girls. Woking may not have the historic associations that Guildford has, but its surroundings link up with the country town and share to the same extent in its glories.
From the Headmaster’s Desk re the paper shortage! Control of paper (No.48) Order, Direction No.3. stated the aggregate weight of paper which may used for school magazines. We are allowed 6½% of the amount consumed over a period of 12 months. Covers have had to go, Illustrations also and, once more, the Elliott must practise the art of using the best of the means available. It may be that one of the lessons learned from this war is the more effective use and greater appreciation of vast and varied resources. It is also well to remember that a packed tool chest does not make a craftsman. Many a sailor has constructed beautiful models with a penknife and bradawl. Some boys have recently placed models at an exhibition in Woking, made out of scraps of wood and with few tools. Use them to the benefit of the things that be at hand, and do not refuse work or forsake the hobby because all that you might require is not there.
(This has been edited from an indistinct copy of the original and some words completed or filled in where necessary).
At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, over 600,000 children, including me, a nine-year-old boy, were evacuated from the Greater London area to avoid anticipated air raids and gas attacks. My School, Elmwood Junior School. Croydon, was among them. The exodus also included pupils from the Elliott Girls and Boys Schools from Southfields, London, and many of their teachers.
There were no suitable sites large enough to keep both Elliott schools together, so the boys were relocated to Woking and the girls to Guildford. In 1941 I passed my 11+ (or was it ‘The Scholarship’ then?). But as I was living in Guildford, I, and several of my friends, found ourselves at the Girls School. We were too young to see any advantage in this. For much of the time the school was housed in a large requisitioned Country Mansion called Guildown House. It had extensive gardens and lawns through which we roamed during playtimes.
We were allowed to play games on one lawn in particular, which, by the end of July each year, was completely bare, without a single blade of grass. It wasn’t large enough for ball games, but we boys enjoyed British Bulldog and other contact sports which, with hindsight, were remarkably rough, but I can’t recall any serious injuries. George Wenglowitz, a refugee from Nazi Germany, was immensely strong for his size, and the leading sportsman in the Saxon House team. He even managed to fill both roles of Centre Forward and Centre Half in the Saxon football team; at the same time! Another of our favourite games was ‘Castles,’ where a smallish boy would be mounted on the shoulders of a bigger stronger boy – like George. The principle was similar to British Bulldog in that the ‘knight’ mounted on his charger would try to unseat opposing ‘knights.’
George was often the most successful charger. Something amused his knight one particularly hot sunny day. As George charged here and there, helping his rider to unseat knights throughout the field, his jockey got a fit of the giggles, eventually reducing him to helpless laughter, quite unable to control his horse – or his bladder. All the onlookers there fell about laughing when George’s two tone khaki shirt was revealed when he finally allowed his hapless rider to dismount. Strange that my most vivid wartime memories tend to be similar hilarious or outrageous incidents, rather than academic matters. Another incident involved one of our boys stealing some explosive fuses from a Home Guard hut, and his efforts to exploded them – unbelievably – during playtime! There was one successful detonation (I won’t give the details) but soon after the big bang Police arrived on the scene and, sadly, I think the school expelled our adventurous colleague.
We may not have appreciated them at the time, but our teachers were great; succeeding in doing a difficult job in trying conditions. Miss Rolfe, Maths I believe, was white-haired and glamorous, favouring a display of blue stoned finger rings. She was severe, but an excellent teacher. Miss Jones, Music, was a superb pianist, who would, at Assembly on special days, give the whole school a performance of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ or other classics. Sadly, although I put enormous effort into my singing, Miss Jones, was unimpressed and suggested it would be better for everyone if I just mimed the words. She was a gentle soul, but I did find that hurtful! Mrs Hewetson, the headmistress, was very strict, but just. Amazingly she had the ability of reading your mind. She once had reason (I can’t remember what it was) to chastise me, rounding off the carpeting with “…and don’t look at me like that!” I hadn’t realised my thoughts were so transparent. I never forgot the lesson! Mr Kear (a good sense of humour) and Mr Benito (not such a good sense of humour) were two of the male teachers at the Guildford Girls School, but most of the teachers were women, whose faces I remember, but not their names.
Being evacuated and away from family contact most of the time, was a miserable experience. During the war I had about six different ‘homes’ which varied from a ghastly Dickensian experience — which I eventually rebelled against — to the luxury of staying with a titled Lady, whose Maid cared for me. Unfortunately for me, my stay in opulence only lasted a few weeks. At the other extreme my Foster Mother during the Dickensian Saga, used her three segregated evacuees as a source of cheap labour and a profit making exercise – even though the government paid her only 14 shillings per week to care for each one of us. My other homes were with normal families, or were transit hostels (in one of which I had my first and only encounter with a bed bug) for a week or two while waiting to be more permanently housed. Although it wasn’t something we discussed, my most valued moral support came from my school friends; and my older sister, who was also evacuated to Guildford. Their very existence was enough, most of the time, to strengthen my resolve to ‘keep on smiling.’ Two of my classmates, Peter Matthews and George Wenglowitz, joined me in the 1st Stoughton Scout Group, and Scouting and other activities mainly kept us fully occupied and out of serious mischief.
Other special school friends were Trevor Mitchell, Tony Brewis, Johnny Morris and Leon Evans. Jean Davies wasn’t a special friend, although I had good reason to be grateful to her. Although the teacher was already in the classroom, I was continuing with a demonstration of my prowess with a pair of compasses for drawing circles. I was using them as a dart, and persuaded Jean, who sat immediately behind me, to spread her fingers out on her desktop. I claimed I was so skilled I could throw the compasses in the gaps between her fingers. You guessed it. Next moment there was the compass firmly stuck into the back of Jean’s hand. Shock! Horror! She gave me a withering look and called me a bloody fool as I quickly pulled it from her hand. I am ashamed to admit my main concern was whether she would ‘tell teacher.’ No scream, no complaint. I wonder if she ever knew how grateful I was. I never told her.
At the end of the war, more upheaval. Back to Southfields, from Guildford (and Woking) and back to having separate Boys and Girls Schools. And a new set of teachers. Not ideal preparation for Oxford School Certificate exams the following year. But it was an enjoyable time. I have a final year form photograph, dated July 1946, to help my memory. This can be found in the Pictures before 1950 section along with other pictures from the same era.
Ah! We had some laughs, one of which involved a lunchtime game of table tennis with a cracked ball, using school text books as bats. Sadly, I can’t tell you about it except to say that typical schoolboy humour was involved. That makes it unsuitable for general publication. Did I have a favourite London teacher? I did. It has to be Mr W R Mitchell, the Art Master, who had a way of treating you as an intelligent equal — even though we didn’t deserved it!
You will find many more general recolletions in the Recolletions Section