From London to Cottered in Wartime

Nevil Chuck

This article was printed in Cottered and Trocking News  No. 15 August 1971.  A copy is held in WW2 Folder 4 in Hertfordshire Local Studies Library.

It demonstrates something of the emotions involved when children and teachers were with little warning suddenly trnasported to unknown parts.

The children and teachers were spread around  the villages of North Hertfordshrie, presumably being bused into the school.

Here is part of the magazine of the North Hackney Central School for Girls, Christmas 1939.  These children and school staff were evacuated to Buntingford and the surrounding villages at hte beginning of the Second World War.

The headmistress, Miss Hole, writes:”The blow has fallen.  In spite of earnest hopes and efforts, War has come.  It seems incredible, but the exodus from London on September 1st brought horrid belief (relief?).

“The confidence and quiet courage with which the parents handed over their children to the staff deserved admiration and commendation.  There was no excitement or hysteria, no tears or complaints . . . For the first time in my life, I boarded a train with 231 children, under such sealed orders that the driver alone knew our destination . . .

School as usual was the crying need of all.  The Hertfordshire Education Committee had opened a new Senior School in Buntingford in September.  This was generously afforded to us three days a week.  The sacrifice involved in sharing with evacuees a new bulding long and eagerly awaited is fully recognised by both staff and children . . .

“Much sacrifice is entailed in throwing open one’s home to strangers.  And so it is desired to place on record that the genuine and grateful thanks of the staff, scholars and parents be accorded to all who have offered hospitality,” she concludes.

Sylvia Walker was one of the pupils who was billeted in Cottered: “It was with a heavy heart that i made my way to school on the first day of evacuation.  Gone was the excitement with which I had anticipated this stay in the country, and in its place was an unpleasant sickening feeling – the kind of feeling that is usually associated with the dentist’s chair.

“Since eight o’clock this morning I had been wondering around the house, and I had watched my friends and neighbours start out as usual for their daily work.  I envied them.  They would come back to their homes and friends  – to homes which although sandbagged and barricaded mean so much to us when it comes to leaving them for an indefinite time.”

After leaving Clapton Station the party eventually arrived at Bishops Stortford where they were transported by bus to Northgate School.  Here 231 of them were dispatched to local villages.

“With eighteen other evacuees and Miss Phillips (a teacher) I boarded a small bus which took us to the village of Cottered.  In the rectory garage the billeting committee found homes for us . . .  I was taken to Mrs Mackay’s home.

“Here, in spite of the fact that we had not been expected till the following day, we were made welcome.  We were given a very pleasant room . . .  After a good night’s sleep we felt ready on Saturday morning to explore the village and its surroundings . . .  There were plenty of opportunities for walks and rambles, and during the next week I experienced very mixed feelings.  On one hand I became aware of fresh attractions to be discovered in the country, and appreciated the quiet, regular life of the village people.  But on the other hand I missed that spirit which is ever present in a great city; the spirit of gaiety, wit and passion which I could always find among crowds, theatres and music of London.

“But in spite of the fact of having been brought up ina city, I find it hard to be satisfied with country life, I am grateful for the hospitable refuge the people of Cottered have offered to me in a time of danger.”

Notes:

The LCC Teachers: Gertrude F Hole (12/10/1884 – ) Head Teacher, North Hackney Central School; Violet A Hole (17/05/1903? – ) Majorie Morril (24/10/1901 – ); Gladys M Hutchins (22 Dec 1894 – ) and Lilian D Attwood (19th Sep 1902 – ) were all billeted at Upnick House, Braughing R.D.

The recently opened secondary school was presumably Buntingford Secondary School, later known as Ward Freman School (after Bishop Ward and built on Freman land) which is now Freman College.

This page was added on 11/03/2020.

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