Wartime Memories – St. John’s Primary School in WW2

In 1944 I was a pupil in the infants at St. John’s Church of England Primary School in Spring Park Road, Shirley. At the time, only around twenty children attended as most had been evacuated. The school was built in 1885, replacing the original ‘Dame’ school of 1834 on the corner of Spring Park and Shirley Church Roads by the church and a separate boys’ school built thirty-five years later. Typical of its age our school’s amenities were very primitive compared to today but it had a wonderful atmosphere and I was happy there.

Wednesday, 26th July in 1944 was a beautiful Summer’s day and that afternoon we were having a lesson outside in the infants’ playground. Shortly before 2.30pm the air raid siren went and the teachers rapidly, without panic, ushered us around the school into the above ground brick shelter situated in the playground on the other side of the school. Immediately after we were seated on the benches inside, we heard the unforgettable droning sound of a V1 flying bomb, or doodlebug as they became known, and then the dreadful few seconds of silence as it cut out and fell.

The horrendous explosion was followed by the shelter door being blown off in front of us, with terrible flashing lights which seemed to be in all colours. Eventually everyone emerged, terribly shocked, shaken and covered from head to foot in thick dirt and dust but unhurt, stumbling out to hear people running up the road shouting ‘it’s the school’. Indeed, it was. The flying bomb had fallen exactly where we had been having our lesson in the playground and our little school was damaged beyond repair. Sometime earlier the shelter had been re-enforced. There were those who had criticised it as being a waste of money as the bombing raids had eased but it was later agreed that it was this that had probably saved our lives.

I think we children could not believe what had happened and the next day some school friends and I went back and I found, in the debris by the pavement, a battered picture of kittens which had hung on our classroom wall and which I loved. I took it home but my mother was horrified and said it was looting so I had to take it back!

St. John’s relocated to the Benson School site until the present school was opened in 1954. I later learnt that, apart from us, our school bell and the cross which stood at the school’s apex also survived. The cross is now situated within the school’s reception area.

JOAN PRING

MORA would like to thank the School for giving us permission to use this information.

MORA currently use the Tamberlin Room adjacent to the Church for our Committee Meetings

Story contribution taken from the Winter 2013 Edition of the MORA Magazine
Wartime Memories >
Evacuation During World War 2