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Evacuation Pipewood 1941-1943

by WMCSVActionDesk

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Audrey Hemming
Location of story: 
Rugeley, Staffordshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
13 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Martin Hough from WM CSV Actiondesk on behalf of Audrey Hemming and has been added to the site with her permission Audrey Hemming fully understands the sites terms and conditions.

Evacuation for me - I feel was different rather special, a chance to go to Boarding School, or as Government Officials would say, Camp School, as per the Camps Act of May 1939.

About 50 Camps were built for use as School Camps and Camps for holidays in peace time, but in the event of war they could accommodate people for whomit would be difficult to billet in private homes. However some Education Authorities realised the opportunities offered by the camps and eventually about 30 camps were being used for the education of secondary school children. Birmingham had two of these, one for boys at Shooting Butts, Cannock Chase and the girls camp was at Pipewood, Blithbury, Nr Rugeley which was opened in June,1940.

I was fortunate enough to hear about it in January 1941 and two of us chose to go there instead of with the majority of girls from Pitmaston, who were going to Leicestershire. On the day that we were due to go the other girl didn't turn up and so i went not knowing anyone. Not to worry as we all soon made friends, some I still have contact with after over fifty years.

The school was a cluster of wooden huts accommodating 240 pupils. Five of the buildings were dormitories where we slept in bunk beds. Other buildings were the usual classrooms, school hall, plus a large dining room, wash blocks and a small hospital. There were 35 acres of grounds and we had woods and fields for recreation and free time. We weren't confinedto four walls of a classroom as so many lessons were practical. Our history book was the local church (Hamstall Ridware ) learning about periods linked with the development and alterations to the church building. Geography was mainly at the local farms and included gardening on our own one and a half acre field and later our own individual small patch where we would grow carrotts, lettuces, and radishes for our parents. The main garden produced 747lbs of tomatoes and 442lbs carrotts among other things in 1941. In domestic science we would split into groups, one for laundry, one housework and the favorite, cooks, who would cook lunch for the whole class. We kept rabbits, hens, and ducks and also bees.

Days were very busy with no time for loneliness. Staff were also our mums and friendswith time for the individual. A typical day was perhaps, Morning call and showers about 7.15a.m., followed by prayers and breakfast. After breakfast we would make our beds and generally tidy up.(Maids did the cleaning) Then came morning school, lunch, rest hour, more school until teatime , then free time or activities. In winter we sometimes had free time in the afternoon and school in the evening. Free time and activities would include walks, picnics, film shows, dance evenings (we learnt ballroom dancing) and concerts. Sunday morning would see us walking in crocodile to Hamstall Ridware Church, which we would fill and have our own service. ( An honour was, to be chosen to go to the Rectory to collect the readings for the following Sunday.)In the afternoon we attended Sunday School in the school hall where we sang popular choruses.

We had our own Brownie Pack and Girl Guide Company which became so popular that we split into two companies. Teachers gave of their extra time to run these units.

On one occasion we also went Youth Hostelling and teachers would often take those of us who had bicyclesout for cycle rides. We had exchange visits with the boys camp, which we hated, because they always grabbed the cakes before eating the sandwiches. We were entertained by the concert party from R.A.F.Hednesford and we also went to a concert at their camp on Cannock Chase travelling by special bus.

Later on as we reached our final year we had special privileges. One of the dormitories was converted for us to have a sitting room at one end, which we had to clean and tidy ourselves. We had a sort of Youth Club to which the local farm and village boys were invited. Why the local girls never came I do not know. The boys learnt First Aid with us and we taught them to dance.

Pipewood, looking back was most progressive and we had a wonderful time although there were times we wished we were back home. We did have the choice of going home for holidays, if air raids etc were quiet, but lots of girls stayedat school when special treats were arranged. Christmas in school was very popular. Our teachers were great, we respected them and i think they us. Pipewood taught us a lot, such as living together and put us on a sound footing for later life.

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