Wales

World War Two: Powis Castle classmates reunite after 76 years

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Media captionMabel Gower and Wendy Duff catch up after more than 70 years

As school reunions go, Mabel Gower and Wendy Duff have plenty to catch up on.

They last saw each other 76 years ago after meeting when thousands of city children were evacuated to rural areas during World War Two.

They met when Mrs Duff was evacuated to study at Powis Castle, Welshpool, after Lord Powis opened up his home so it could be used as a school.

Now 92, the pair are believed to be the last of their year group after going their separate ways in 1943.

They met as an exhibition is being run by the castle to mark its time as a school and ahead of the 80th anniversary of the start of the war.

As governor of the Welsh Girls school in Ashford, just outside London, Lord Powis invited pupils there to be moved and taught in his family home in Powis Castle.

Pupils were taught at his country seat from 1939 to 1946.

Image copyright National Library of Wales
Image caption The women remembered knitting soldiers' socks in class

Mabel and Wendy remember their teachers and playing their part in the war effort - knitting socks and balaclavas for the armed forces.

"We haven't met since we left school but you haven't altered at all," said Mabel when the old school friends met again.

Mabel said pupils were not told much about what was happening on the war front.

But Wendy remembers one time when the pupils were "herded into the billiard room" to listen to the one o'clock news.

"The headmistress brought her radio from her room in there. And we were all listening to the result of the Battle of El Alamein but nobody told us where El Alamein was," she said.

"We were made aware of the troops and what they wanted... scarves, garters, and balaclavas. We were not allowed to waste any time at all," remembers Mabel.

Image copyright National Trust
Image caption Home from home - Powis Castle became a place of refuge for World War Two evacuees
Image caption Friends reunited: Mabel Gower and Wendy Duff haven't seen each other since they were 16

"Every spare minute we were knitting. We used to make socks," said Wendy.

"We were told: 'Which would you rather do, socks or scarves?' And I got to the stage where I could turn a heel without having to stop and look at the pattern."

She and Mabel finished their high school education before the end of the war and they went their separate ways after going to colleges in London and the Midlands.

Both still have fond memories of their time in Powys: "I feel like we haven't really missed the time," said Wendy.

"It makes me very grateful that I've lived so long," Mabel added.

Image copyright National Library of Wales
Image caption A recreational class in one of the castle's state rooms

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