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Wartime Examinations

by Hillingdon

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs.Rosalie E.Ilott
Location of story: 
Dartford, Kent
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
15 February 2004

In 1939 I won a scholarship to Dartford County Grammar school, North Kent. We were not evacuated like other schools near us and throughout the war, come blitz, Battle of Britain and all the bombing, rationing and shortages, we carried on.The days I am reminded of most, however, were in 1944 when the time came for us to take our General Schools certificate/Matric exams.

I think of it when the youngsters today talk of terrible strains and pressures, examination nerves etc.The week before our examinations, Hitler decided to launch his V1 bombs, and we were right in line.I still have my diary for that time, with INVASION on 6 June, in red capitals.My entry on the day of my 16th birthday on 14 June reads:'Had a new kind of raid tonight, by pilot-less planes.We thought it sounded funny, but didn't realise what it was'. I set off for school the next day, which involved a fair walk to the station to catch my train, only to find that the school was closed - we had no telephone so no communication with anyone, only the radio and the post.Exams started in a week's time, and I remark in my diary 'it had better stop soon'.It didn't. During the next few days we found out the strange objects were flying bombs, and were known as 'doodlebugs'.

The exams began - the rest of the school stayed at home, but we battled on. To settle our nerves, just before the exams started, I learned that my brother was in France and had been there over a week. He was 19.

The first day we had English literature and French, both of which I described as 'frightful'and 'doodlebugs interrupting were not any help'. The procedure adopted was that we were in the main hall of the school and there was a shelter (a reinforced cloakroom) next to it.A mistress was stationed on the roof and when a 'bug'stopped or came over our way, a whistle was blown and we rushed to the shelter. The time spent in the shelter was written on a blackboard on the stage, and when the time was up for the completion of the examination, the minutes were added on. In the shelter we were, of course,on our honour not to discuss the exam. The rest of the time we were supposed to take no notice of the 'intruders'.

A week-end followed, then back on Monday for Geometry and English language. Not too bad it seems from my diary, but I remember dashing to the shelter having just read the passage for precis.

So it continued all week, travelling to school in raids and with 'doodlebug' interruptions throughout the exams.The worst day was during the German exam, when we had five dashes to the shelter. On returning home, a flying bomb fell by the side of the railway line, in front of the train. It rocked the train, and as we crawled slowly past I saw the scene of devastation. I remember it well, as I was alone in the compartment with the sticky netting stuff all over the windows.

The next week the bombs and the exams continued until the Thursday, when I was glad to stay at home!All through the exams, I travelled each day to school, come what may, and spent the night in the Anderson shelter.Nobody offered counselling or suggested we might be tired or nervous - we just got on with it.

I returned to school on 19 July to break-up a week early and wrote that 'the bugs were still a thorough nuisance'. Were we made of sterner stuff, I wonder? - Hitler never managed to break our spirit. And in spite of it all, I got good marks in the exams!

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Message 1 - War time examinations

Posted on: 15 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

I found this contribution very interesting. I am still astonished at the amount of 'counselling' that everyone seems to need these days, even the police, for any 'distressing' incident.

Best wishes,


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