School hopes to use unearthed wartime bomb shelter as a learning resource

  • 11 March 2014
  • From the section Home
Five teenagers and a teacher in high-vis vests on steps leading to a bomb shelter Image copyright BBC School Report
Image caption Lottery funding would make the World War Two shelter a living history resource

A World War Two air raid shelter unearthed during building works in the playground of Dartford Grammar School has excited pupils and unlocked another piece of the school's history.

The find will eventually become a history resource when the shelter is fully excavated in the summer holidays.

Deputy Head Guy Hewitt has stated that: "If the school manage to receive funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, over the summer holidays in 2014 we would continue the excavating and making sure it will be safe for students.

"We are then looking to turn the shelter into a resource for the students but also to make it bookable by local schools and history groups in the surrounding area.

"It will be significant to recognise the contributions that Dartford Grammar students made in both World Wars, as many of them contributed and gave their lives, on a local scale but also on a national scale."

The shelter's main entrance, one of three, has been covered until all building works on the new Stephenson Science building have been completed.

The excavation over the summer is likely to allow students to use the shelter to get hands-on practical knowledge of life during wartime and how the school was affected. This would greatly benefit students' World War Two history studies.

The school played a vital role in wartime affairs, especially for military purposes. Students, after leaving school, went into military service and many lost their lives.

The school pavilion was requisitioned for military use rendering all outdoor sports and games impossible. The creative and academic subjects also suffered greatly.

School plays were cancelled and an inter-house dramatic competition was held in its place - the first time that inter-house competitions were held for a sport-unrelated purpose.

Lessons became extremely difficult and because Dartford is directly under the flight path from Europe to London, there became a considerable risk of bomb damage.

Students spent more time in shelters than out during the height of the bombings.

Whilst there were no direct bombing hits to the school, there was still damage, although minimal.

Windows were shattered and roof tiles were dislodged as a result of many nearby bomb hits in Crayford.

After the war ended, the school faced the task of rebuilding and repairing the school to its former state so that normal lessons could recommence.

Two shelters were found in the junior playground. They were half-covered with allotments from the Grow More Food campaign and a large water tank was also found here.

One of the shelter entrances was covered with concrete while another was kept open in the event that another emergency arose.

All entrances were finally sealed when the junior playground was paved over in 1952 with £1,000 funding from the council.

Many other schools in the Local Education Authority were keen to claim this funding, probably to rebuild their own school buildings.

At this point, the air raid shelter was covered and left alone until its discovery in January 2014.

This historical relic undoubtedly saved the lives of hundreds of pupils and is now invaluable to the school's history department, as well as to the local community.

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