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|The Second World War - the Evacuation to Appleby|
|School at War - Chapters 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6|
South Shields High School Heads to Appleby
Carrying their tiny parcels of essential belongings, and gasmasks in cardboard boxes and string handles, they boarded the steam train. Accompanied by 13 masters, and Mr Newby (deputy Head) and his wife, they left South Shields for Appleby, a small town in Westmorland (now in Cumbria), some 70 miles to the south-west.
On arrival, the boys were probably met by the Reception Officer and assisted in finding their new homes by the Billetting Officer, Sybil Heelis. It seems that the boys were treated much better than those in other areas, and on that first day they were entertained to tea by the staff and Headmaster of the local Central School. How the selection of who would stay where was carried out is not recorded, but from a number of personal accounts, the choices made were generally very happy ones.
Those who took children in were paid an allowance of 10s6d for the first child, rising to 17s0d for two, and 8s6d for each subsequent child, and they were instructed (according to the Women's Voluntary Service for Civil Defence leaflet) "to care for the children as if they were their own". Healthy nutrition was important, and sample weekly menus were distributed. In some areas, illnesses and infestations were a problem right from the beginning ... but it certainly doesn't seem to have been the case for the Boys from Shields.
Appleby is a beautiful mediaeval town in the sheltered Eden valley. It was small (even now it has less than 3000 inhabitants) yet in 1940 it was well served - it had two railways stations (for the LNER and the LMSR lines which ran through the town), and two schools, the Grammar School and the Central School.
Boroughgate, in the centre of the town plan on the left, was the main thoroughfare, with the 16th century Moot Hall at its northern end. There is a river, a cricket field, a 12th-century castle, and lots of wooded countryside nearby - it is little wonder that many boys recall an exciting and enjoyable time.
Initially, there was some expectation that the boys would be able to use the facilities of the Appleby Grammar School. Unfortunately, this proved impractical. However, Mr Newby was able to negotiate the occasional use of a laboratory and the woodwork room, and boys from the school were allowed to play on the Grammar School field half-a-day a week. This did, however, mean having to play rugby on a pitch marked out for football!
By the Tuesday after their arrival, Mr Newby had hired rooms around the town. The evacuees started their school term with no desks, no blackboard and no books - so the school year began with lots of organised excursions. Other buildings around the town served as classrooms for sections of the school, and the Cinema in Boroughgate was used as a gymnasium. Boys from the 3rd form joined the upper 4th and lower 5th in the Church Institute, located on The Sands, the main road to the east of the river. The lower 4th used the nearby Oddfellow's Hall, and the upper 5th (and presumably the two boys that made up the remove and the 6th) were housed in the Brownie Hut, on Boroughgate.
According to a souvenir leaflet given to the boys, the roll-call on 8th September, 1939, was as follows:
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