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School Evacuation In Birmingham

by csvdevon

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Irene F Sweet
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29 November 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People’s War site by CSV Storygatherer Ian Hollins on behalf of Irene F Sweet. The story has been added to the site with her permission. And Irene F Sweet fully understands the terms and conditions of the site.

In 1949 I was teaching in Birmingham at a school in Small Heath. The committee decided to send the children to Worcester. On the actual morning I went to school and was given a group of about 15 boys and girls that I did not know. Each of them carrying a gas mask in a cardboard box hanging by a length of string around their necks and a small parcel of a change of clothes.When we reached Worcester by train I was helped by the Worcester staff to take the children to homes where they would stay. I was not happy with a lady that a brother and sister were left with as I felt that she did not really want them, probably because she did not have two spare bedrooms. I asked for them to be moved and this done right away. Everyone was very helpful.I had no classroom or books to help with teaching as we were told to teach mostly maths and English. I took my group of about 15 around the countryside outside Worcester for nature walks; luckily the weather was very good. After a week some of the parents came to take the children home as there had been no bombing in Birmingham. Soon afterwards they all had gone home. I then had to go around the homes of the children in Birmingham to find a room that I could teach in; usually it was the ‘front’ room. There were 3 groups that I taught 9-10:30 for group 1, 11-12:30 for group 2 and 2-3:30 for the last group. I walked from one group to the other, gave out new work, marked homework, taught a little and then moved on. It was very busy and difficult. Finally we were able to return to school.There were many air raids on Birmingham and during one of them one of the boys was killed. He was a very good actor who spoke perfect English on stage but had a strong Birmingham accent otherwise. When living in a flat in Birmingham I used to come home from school and the siren used to go while we were eating our tea. Our bomb shelter was under the flat and as there were no bombing we decided to stay in the flat and finish our tea. Suddenly we heard the wail of bombs coming down and so we headed for the shelter. We landed in the shelter just as a bomb landed on a house on the opposite side of the road. Two people were killed, the house was in ruins and we had a lucky escape. Our windows had been blown out and I will always remember the crunch of the glass as we swept it up.Our windows were soon boarded up but my friends offered me a bed on the outskirts of Birmingham which I gratefully accepted even though it meant cycling seven mile to and from school each day. This continued for quite a good time.

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