Martin Jones has sent this in. It is an extract from the Bourne Society's Local History Records (May 2016) about Tony Neale's time at Purley GS during World War 2. This is set out below and is reproduced with Tony's permission.
"On moving to Hartley Down, Purley, my mother swiftly enrolled me (in 1940) at Purley County Grammar School for Boys. I remember being in awe of the fine building and the masters in their gowns. But it was the recently-completed school air-raid shelters which were also to make a lasting impression. They had been built on the edge of the playing field at the rear of the school and were similar. although smaller, to those on Kenley Airfield, half below and half above ground.
|Bill Barker's photo of the Air Raid shelters in 1950|
Each shelter held a form of boys seated on duckboards down the sides of the shelter - we all got ridged bottoms! In the early days lighting was provided by a few hurricane lamps, to be replaced by electric light bulbs. Our masters did their best to teach but, with neither blackboards nor desks on which to read and write, and poor lighting, it proved an almost impossible task. I am afraid we often resorted to playing simple card games.
The nearest air-raid siren was situated on the far side of Coulsdon Road next to the junction with Canon's Hill. Its wails could be heard for miles around. With the Germans launching both day and night raids it was not unknown to leave home for school before the All Clear had been sounded from the previous night's raid, and to spend virtually the whole day in the shelter before going home. Our only break from the tedium was being allowed to go into the hall for school dinner. With hindsight, during the early years of the war, I believe we spent as much time in the shelters as we spent in the classrooms.
There were of course no school trips to exhibitions, places of interest or tours overseas. Younger masters would fail to appear (having been 'called up') to be replaced by new but older ones having been brought in to fill the gaps. The Headmaster, Mr B E Mitchell, must have had a torrid time both running the school and having to teach chemistry.
However there was a chink of hope. News percolated through the school that the best shelter to be in was that supervised by Mr Duffield, the Latin master. It was not that we were avid to be taught Latin but rather that it had become known that Mr Duffield took a keen interest in Egyptology. Hence, seated at the entrance to his shelter where there was some daylight, he would read to us 'gripping yarns' of the lives of the Pharaohs, the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings etc. But what appealed most to those of us with ghoulish imaginations, were the accounts of embalming. Those pupils not privileged to be in Mr Duffield's shelter avidly gleaned details from those who were. We soon learned how the bodies of the deceased were preserved by bandaging, while the organs were removed and the component parts carefully separated before being preserved for the 'Afterlife' in sealed ampullae. One of the more intricate parts of the process, particularly intriguing to us, concerned preservation of the brain which - so far as I can recall - required special measures.
In the event, it was a pity the CSE exam did not include Egyptology. I'm sure we would have all scored highly; even if not so good on the traditional more important subjects."
Martin Jones comments - an interesting article from Tony Neale. I remember the entrances to the air-raid shelters were still in place when I arrived at Purley in 1960, but needless to say, we were never allowed to venture in, and they were swept away a couple of years later when the Science blocks were built and metal bike sheds were put on the site of the shelters. I also remember the siren on the corner of Canon's Hill which (along with the siren next to the Red Lion in Coulsdon) were tested from time to time until well into the 1960's. And what a dreadful wail they emitted. One afternoon in October 1962, we were allowed to go on the field to watch a rugby match and half expected to hear the siren wailing for real. However sense prevailed and the Cuban Missile crisis was thankfully averted.