"Templars School Reunion"
The Story of "Templars and Whoberley Schools" ...
THE STORY OF A SCHOOL Templars Primary First Printed 1996
WARTIME 1939-1945 School should have opened for the new School year on September 4th 1939, with three separate departments: the Infants in their brand new building, the Juniors where the Lower School is now, and the Seniors, separate classes for boys and girls where the Upper School is today. There were Three hundred pupils in the junior department alone. On September 3rd, war was declared on Germany, so the School did not opened as planned. Preparations for the safety of the children in case of air raids were underway but not finished. Mr. Peter Brogan, who started School in 1938, brought by a neighbour, remembers the people who lived around the School, preparing their own defences. The piles of sand, used for building the Infants’ were a handy source for their own sandbags. Mary Watkins (Nee Morrison) recalls: "At the onset of war, the Infant School (part of) was converted into a First Aid Centre and several ambulances were parked by the front entrance. In the juniors, the classroom nearest to the Hall was used as a Warden’s post, and sandbags put all round the outside of the room. The top School, two classrooms were used by the Home Guard. The field at the side of the Infant School was used by the RAF as a barrage balloon site. (The men from the site, who lived in huts, used to come to our house to have a hot bath.) Two fields away from the top School, where Gravel Hill is now situated, there was an Army camp with several Ack-Ack guns. We were very well protected!! The field at the back of the School was dug up, and shelters (trenches) built. People in Tile Hill Lane used the trenches at night. There was a coalhouse near the boiler-house on the top playground and Father emptied it, gave it a lick of paint and built bunk beds, and this was our Air-Raid shelter. Being children we managed to sleep at night, even when the Ack-Ack guns went off, making us literally jump up in our beds. But for all the raids and noise, not one pane of glass was ever shattered throughout the entire School. Indeed the nearest bomb fell in Ten Shilling Wood, now at the side of Charter Avenue. "After the November 1940 blitz, my brothers, sister and I were evacuated but Father and Mother remained at the School." Mary Watkins (Nee Morrison) The School reopened for voluntary attendance on October 2nd, as the Air Raid shelters were not completed. The Infants had to move back to their original classrooms because their School was an important part of the defence of the city. Staff too, began to leave. Mr. Shilton ceased duty on the 24th November 1939, to take up Military Service as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers. 1940 began with deep snow and the bad weather continued throughout February. The ARP trenches were filled with water up to 40 inches deep in places. However, during this month, work resumed to make them ready. School had begun to return to normal with compulsory education restored on the 12th. Still in February, the lower part of the field was ploughed prior to cultivation for the period of the war. On May 6th, the Infant School could return to a part of their School, five classrooms and the Hall. May 11th saw the removal of sandbags from the Warden’s Post. It could now be used as a classroom by day. Cookery classes had been held through the term in School for married women. The subject was War-time Dishes Preparations for the conflict that would surely come were now underway. May 10th, was the Whitsun Holiday, but this was curtailed because of the serious European situation. Belgium and Holland had been invaded. All that could be done to prepare for the terrible years ahead, was done. A, booklet called the ‘Wakefield Prayers’for use during the Invasion was issued to all Schools. There were two forewords. The first by the King: "I hope that throughout the present crisis of the liberation of Europe there may be offered zip earnest, continuous and widespread prayer." HM The King The second by the Archbishop of Canterbury. "In time of war a primary duly of Christians is to maintain their fellowship across all national divisions. Especially should they be united in their prayers and avoid praying’ against each other. Christian Prayer is not an attempt to use God for our purposes but a petition that He will use us for His." The Archbishop of Canterbury. I include one of the prayers in this booklet, slightly changed by the Head, probably to help the children understand. "Heavenly Father, we pray Thee to give Thy strength and protection in every danger to all who are serving our country by sea and land and air; (endure) give them (with) loyalty, courage and endurance; strengthen them according to Thy needs, and let them through Thy abiding presence know that Thou art with them, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." At last the trenches were ready. On May 15th they were cleaned and swept and practice began. Five minutes were allowed for the whole School to get into the trenches. The ARP Wardens fitted extensions to the children’s gas masks and all was ready. Summer holidays did not mean a break for the staff. School was opened for recreational facilities and the teachers shared out the duties. This was necessary as so many mothers were working to help the war effort. One of Templars’ pupils of this time remembers his mother making camouflage netting for tanks at the Alvis. Jennifer Mary Routledge started School in 1940. She remembers: "I must have started School after everyone else, I was five years old and standing alone, next to the teacher’s desk. I suppose my sister or brother took me into class as my mother always had to work. There were eight of us in our family. War had just been declared and I was nearly in tears. I can remember it so well. All the children were sitting at their desks. The teacher smiled at me, asked if I knew anyone, which I did, a friend called Molly Walker. She took me by the hand and sat me by her. She also gave me a small orange and told me her name was Mrs Warmington. Such a kind lady, always with a lovely smile. I still remember her kindness, a good way to start the first day of the ten years I was at Whoberley." "Our headmistress was Miss Corson with white hair taken back in a bun, a very busy lady, firm but nice." "We were taught to count, sing the alphabet and nursery rhymes, to draw, sit still and upright We had Bible stories and many others. But the war had started. We were all given gas masks, which we had with us every day and everywhere we went. Sirens meant we all formed lines to go down the shelters on the bottom field. This happened nearly every day in my infant years. We were always given a teardrop sweet. We still had it when we came out of the shelters and went home to lunch. My Infants memories are of gas masks, sirens, stories, peardrops and play." Jennifer Mary Routledge School restarted for the new year. On the 15th September, hours were changed. The morning session started at 10 o’clock if an air raid warning occurred after 8 o’clock the previous night. On the 27th September, Mr. Foxall was absent. He had to move out of his house temporarily, owing to an unexploded bomb. It is recorded in the logbook, that in the week beginning the 27th September, there was an air-raid warning every night. On the 30th, there was an air-raid warning at 10. 15 am., just after the children arrived at School. The raiders passed ten minutes later. During the afternoon, the School was in the trenches for one hour. To quote from the log book: October 1st Raid warnings morning and afternoon October 3rd Two raid warnings this morning, out of shelters 12.15 p.m. October 4th Two more warnings this afternoon. Last one from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. October 8th Air raid warnings every night this week. October 11th Two raids, one this morning, one this afternoon. October 15th Morning School 10 a.m. Raids every night. October 17th Raid (Mr Aldridge absent to attend funerals of two Civil Defence colleagues killed in the raid on October 12th.) October 18th Air Raids every night this week October 21st There were three raid warnings this morning. Out of trenches 12.40 p.m. October 22nd Long night raid during day 11.15-12.10 a.m. October 30th Morning raid warning. October 31st Raid warning 1.40 p.m. Those children that reached School were in the trenches until 4.50 p.m. Very stormy weather. Trenches wet.’ This was just one month in 1940. The raids continued all through November, day and night. On the 8th November, the guns from the Ack-Ack Battery fired for the first time. Perhaps it was some comfort and felt as if they were fighting back. There were still problems in the trenches. On 4th November, they were waterlogged. On the 11th November, the Head records that the section of the trench used by the juniors had been made useable only by bucket bailing each day. On the 14th, the lights failed On the 15th November, Miss Corson writes: ‘During the night of the 14/15th November, Coventry experienced its heaviest air raid lasting continuously for eleven hours. Much of the city was bombed and devastated The School suffered no damage however, and the area in which Whoberley children live, was much less damaged than the rest of Coventry’. Miss Porter’s memories continue: "After a time we moved back into the new building and as I had trained for Nursery Teaching as well as Infants, I was given the Nursery Room with its lovely sun parlour. Alas! When there was a daytime air raid warning, my five year olds had the longest way to walk to the trenches. If the guns in the field went off, all the windows in the School were rattling, as I took them along a little corridor, up a few steps, along the main corridor, across our playground, and Capel’s farm lane, and into the field at the back of the old School. The children were tired when they had spent a night in the shelters, and they often slept on the wooden seats in our trenches. I remember once inviting the other teachers to come and see a little angel fast asleep. Another time we were trying to hurry through the snow to the trenches and a little girl said, "Miss Porter, I’ve lost my shoe," so the other teacher took the children, and I hunted in the snow and found it." "The teachers had to take turns at fire-watching at night, sleeping in the ‘flat’ which was used for housewifery and cookery. My prayer was answered that there should be no raid that night, as I couldnaˆ™t see how two women were going to save the School." "We once had a dinner-time air-raid when the plane, just skimming our roof, bombed the Standard Paint Shop. We had the dinner children in a classroom, and suddenly heard moaning, as the wardens brought the mother of some pupils into their post. She had been blown through her kitchen window. To drown the noise and allay the children’s’ fears, we sang songs." "I dona’t remember the year Miss Corson retired, but we were all sad to say goodbye. She had given us years of a ‘happy’ School and a brilliant number scheme which was helpful to all the children and to me in mental calculation." Miss Porter The School closed on this day for the Mayor’s Holiday granted on Armistice Day. November 17th, a Sunday, an Evacuation Register was compiled. Two children came in the morning, twenty-five in the afternoon. The report could not be sent to the Education Office, owing to blasting in the city. On the 19th November, all Infant children were sent over to the Junior Department, as the Infant building was required to house two hundred gravediggers, necessary after the heavy raid. Poor Mr. Aldridge, once again he had problems, with serious damage to his house this time. The 19th also saw the first party of Evacuees set off for Tamworth: seventeen children and two teachers. On the 20th, more children assembled at School for evacuation and a party of eighteen infants and twenty-one juniors with three teachers left for Alcester. On the 22nd, the second party left for Alcester and on the 23rd, thirteen children and one teacher. Staff from the Infant School canvassed the area at the end of November, recording children still to be evacuated, those who had gone to relations and those to remain. As a result a party of mothers with children under five, left for Nuneaton on the 28th. On the 2nd December, the seniors were evacuated, with three junior children, to Stratford. The head of the Infants, Miss Corson, records; ‘only four teachers in the department’. It must have seemed very lonely for those left behind. On the 2nd December, as the second party left, the parents must have thought thattheir decision was the right one. Heavy gunfire sounded over the School from the Ack-Ack Battery at a hostile aircraft. Miss Robson’s house was damaged by enemy action and Miss Corson was sorting out her damaged property. December continued with bomb alerts and there were only four classes left in the juniors. The Head visited Dosthill and Alcester to make holiday arrangements for the evacuees and so 1940 drew to a close. 1941 began badly. On the 7th January, during the mid-day break, bombs were dropped a few hundred yards from the School. Mr. Horton had been called up for service in the Navy. On the 8th, immediately following the alert and while the children were getting into the trenches, an enemy plane, flying low, passed over the School. The neighbouring Ack-Ack Battery fired and the plane came back in a few minutes. By this time all the children were in the trenches. Three bombs dropped in the vicinity, but no casualties resulted. All the children were in the senior trenches as the Juniors were once again waterlogged. January saw deep snow with only a handful of children in School. Raids continued through February. Mr. Aldridge left to take up a commission in the Marines and Mr. Lee left for Military Duties. Whilst I was actually compiling this book, I saw the following in the Evening Telegraph for the 14th August 1996. Deaths ALDRIDGE-Fred J. R. died after a long illness in hospital in Cheltenham. He will be remembered as a popular teacher from Radford, Whoberley, Templars’ and Woodlands Schools in Coventry and Schools in Gloucestershire. His war service was with the Royal Marines in Dover, small boat squads in Europe and Australia, finishing as Captain in charge of Naval transport in Australia. He leaves a wife Dorothy, also an ex-teacher and a brother Dan, nephews, a niece and many friends in Coventry. 14th February saw the beginning of fire watching on the School premises. The Heads of the senior and Junior Departments plus the women staff volunteered. Members of the public also helped. Miss Porter (Infant teacher) remembers her nervousness and also, her worry for her mother left alone in Styvechall. The School also started bee keeping. A useful source of sweetening in those sugar free days. Alerts continued through March. On April 8/9th, during the night, there was a heavy raid. All Domestic Science Teachers in the city were withdrawn from Schools to assist in Emergency Feeding Centres. Cookery lessons were very important with the shortage of food. Mrs Stephens remembers making porridge, sweetened with treacle, and throwing it away in the bushes, because it tasted awful. Be sure your sins will find you out. The Cookery Teacher discovered their dreadful deed, and cooking was banned for the rest of the term. During this term, it was Mr. Malins turn to have his house damaged. School dinners were begun on the 30th June. The caretaker’s wife was Mrs Morrison, she and Mrs Wider were cooks. We have a photograph, thanks to Mrs McTurk who also worked there. School opened after the summer break with a Service: an address by the Headteacher and selected prayers. There were Three hundred and fifty-six pupils on the roll. John H Spiers recalls: "1 was born in Beech Tree Avenue, Tile Hill, Coventry on the 6th March 1935, opposite my grandparents’ shop on the corner of Beech Tree Avenue and Elm Tree Avenue. They were Grocers, known as the Eatons and remained in business for many years until retirement to Heacham, Norfolk." "My fatheraˆ™s parents lived at 412, Tile Hill Lane, just past Jobaˆ™s Lane at the bottom of the hill from what was then known as Whoberley School." "In 1939, when I commenced School at Hill Farm Infants, Radford, my parents had moved to II, Villa Road, where we were bombed out during the November 1940 blitz." "I subsequently, was passed between my two grandparents’ families in the early part of the war years, but cannot give you precise date or period." "I did, however, attend Whoberley Council School from both addresses and recall the name of my main period teacher as Miss/Mrs Tomlinson, a lady who often came past our subsequent home in Grangemouth Road en route through an entry, into Middlemarch Road." "I recall vividly an incident soon after arriving home at my Beech Tree Avenue grandparents home from Whoberley School. As I was about to cross the road at the Beech Tree/Elm Tree junction, I was suddenly awe-struck, to first hear, then see, a German bomber (Dornier) flying up Beech Tree from Tile Hill Lane at rooftop height. I heard the sound of its machine gun firing and saw many people screaming and diving for cover in the doorways of houses along the Avenue. I stood absolutely transfixed and actually remember the face of the pilot (or was it the gunner) grinning at me as he flew past. I understand this was a daylight raid on the Standard Motor Co. factory in which a bomb had been dropped on the paint shop. Rumour had it that the pilot had once worked at the Standard Motor Co. and knew both the route to follow and the exact position to drop the bomb. He also knew the ‘shift’ would have been on changeover and therefore casualties were light. So go the mythologies of war and its consequences." "Of incidents at Whoberley School, I often recall the School had deep air-raid shelters (near to the playground) to house the entire School. Each class had a symbol to follow on the walls of the dark interior of the underground labyrinth of tunnels. My class symbol was a pig. One day during class lessons, the air-raid sirens sounded. However at the time, I was engaged in the toilets. By the time I had managed to get redressed and out back to the classroom, there wasn’t a soul in sight, a child, or a teacher to be seen. Self-preservation and survival instinct found me wandering slowly in the darkness of the tunnels, trying to follow the sign of a pig, when suddenly, I was plunged into what seemed like a bomb crater, full of muddy water. Convinced I was going to drown, I screamed my silly little head off; which had the effect of alerting some teachers. In any event, I was pulled out and calmed down and later dried out and cleaned up before being allowed home. The impression remains vivid, and I have never been caught with my pants down since!! And pigs are not my favourite animal, not even in the form of bacon!!!" "In another incident at Whoberley school, I recall posters everywhere, including the School, proclaiming ‘Diphtheria - Boil your water before drinking’. This was possibly a post-blitz condition of’ water supply damage and contaminated drinking supplies. Certainly the School wash basins were out of bounds and marked ‘Water-not to he drunk’." "It had been a hot day and playtime had been extra active in running around games. I was absolutely gasping for a drink and was assured by the other kids claiming there was nothing wrong with the tap water in the washroom/cloakroom. So I had a long deep drink of water, only to find the other kids laughing and saying I was now poisoned and would die. Sheer panic and fear of a dreadful death would be an understatement, but the Headmistress/teacher took my dying body to the staffroom, where I was treated with cups of tea and biscuits, a very rare treat in those difficult and rationed days. I didn’t die, and caused considerable envy with the kids who played the joke, with my exaggerated stories, not only of tea and cream biscuits, but fruit cake and jellies too!" "These are my most vivid memories of the School now known as Templars, the School attended by my own two children in the early sixties." "I recall there was a big anti-aircraft gun site just over the hill on the other side of what is now Hereward College. It was known as ‘Big Bertha’ Every time it fired the house in Tile Hill Lane shook and often lost a tile or two." "It was all fields to Tile Hill village in those days and as kids, we went ‘tadpoling’ where Mount Nod Estate now stands. It was also fields across to Canley, where on the other side of the railway bridge, over Wolfe Road, my grandfather, (Beech Tree Avenue) practised firing ‘2 inch’ mortar bombs with the Home Guard towards, what is now the A45." "During my stay with my mother’s parents in Beech Tree Avenue, my grandmother maintained a rule that none of us would use an air-raid shelter. We all sat under the dining room table during air-raid alerts, looked in at intervals by Granddad ‘Pop’ Eaton in full Home Guard uniform. Each time he looked in on us, he had more and more garden foliage in his steel helmet netting eventually looking like a hanging basket of flowers. Our laughing became quite hysterical with his poker face and when I once asked him why he did it, he said, ‘to confuse enemy pilots’. They were supposed to look down and see a flower garden island on the crossroads of Beech Tree and Elm Tree Avenues, and looking at their bombing map, decide they were in the wrong place. Pop Eaton, a veteran of the 1914-1918 war certainly knew how to defuse anxieties with laughter." "I trust this information of my time at Whoberley School is of interest to you and gives some insight into my wartime experiences." "My father’s family (Tile Hill Lane) all survived the war, despite some horrific experiences. My father served on the Ack-Ack gun site at Corley during the Blitz, and later transferred to an Anti-tank gun battery with the Black Watch 51st Highland Division in North Africa, Sicily and NW. Europe from the D-Day beaches. His brother who served as an air gunner (RAF) took part in the Battle of Britain in Blenheims and subsequently became rear gunner on Lancasters and took part in the ‘Thousand Bomber’ raid on Cologne. His other brother served with the Hussars and his brother in-law with the Fleet Air Arm, a survivor of H.M.S.Glorious, later H.M.S. Implacable." John H Spiers (aged 61) There was trouble with the trenches, especially on the junior side. These were waterlogged and had been for months. Now they were to be drained by a pipe laid about ten feet deep across the playing fields to the main drain. There are very few mentions of raid alerts through this time. There was to be no public celebration of Armistice Day. The Mayor, Mayoress and a Councillor visited School in the afternoon. The Hall was cleaned and decorated with flowers and flags. The Mayor spoke to the children and Mr. Maim made a speech of thanks. A hymn, "I vow to the my country," and the National Anthem were sung. The Mayor granted a holiday for Friday. It was very different from the year before. 1942 continued in a quieter vein: teachers absent when their husbands came home on leave from their regiments, the occasional raid alert, children returning from evacuation. On April 13th there were eight classes in the Junior Department, one taken by the Head, whenever possible. By July this had risen to nine with two classes in the Rest Centre Huts on the playing fields. School was opened during the holidays with two teachers on duty. When School re-opened in August there were Three hundred and twenty children. Back in February the School joined in Coventry Warship Week and in the November a Special War Savings effort for H.M.S. Coventry realised ?143-17s-lOd The 3rd of September was a day of National Prayer for all the country, kept by the School. Parties of senior boys and girls, twelve to fourteen year olds, went potato harvesting at Hatton, Shrewley and Meriden. In May the School took part in the Coventry ‘Wings for Victory’ week. School was kept open during the holidays for those children whose parents were working. Things had quietened down and children were all returning to their homes. 1944 and some return to normality. On March 20th an evening play centre was opened from 4 - 6 p.m. with tea being given to the children. May 8th was ‘Salute the Soldier’ week. Bank was to be taken for four days to raise ?170. On May 11th, the School savings effort was counted and a staggering ?692-7s-4d raised. In August there were fourteen children from London and the South in School, sent away from the flying bombs. In September Miss Corson retired. She had been Head of the Infants since the School opened in 1931. A lecture was given in October by two Army Warrant Officers on unexploded missiles and once again, parties from the senior School went. The situation in Europe was much better now in 1945. Miss Ward was Head of the Infants over a scattered School. Three classes in the junior building, two classes in the Infant Hall, two classes in the Hut in the playground, also used for dinners, and three classes in classrooms. February saw the removal of blackouts from the windows sanctioned and March, the removal of Civil Defence equipment. In April the workmen removed wooden doors and screens erected in case of gas attacks. May saw the Heads pleading for the playground to be mended and the Civil Defence garages to be removed. Then, on May 7th, there came the news on the radio of Victory in Europe. Under prior instructions, the School was closed on the 8th and 9th for a National Holiday. There were obvious and heartfelt celebrations with parties and bonfires. Miss Ward notes that a child fell on the ashes of a bonfire at the corner of Lime Tree Avenue and burnt his hand and wrist. On May 11th, the School was assembled in the Hall at 9 a.m., to take part in a Thanksgiving Service broadcast by the BBC and Mr. Malins addressed the School. "Children, you are called into the Hall for a great occasion. This is Victory Day. This is the day when we celebrate the complete and final defeat of our great enemy-Germany. There are still the Japs, to be dealt with, but that is coming too. We have been at war for nearly six years, more than half your lives. During part of those years the British Empire stood alone against all our enemies. A mighty armed force was at our very doors, only the English Channel separated us from battle on our own soil and all the miseries that would have brought. By the grace of God and the splendid sacrifices of our Royal Air Force and the sure shield of the Royal Navy, we were saved from the greatest danger that confronted this country. Our gradual recovery and how we turned defeat into victory is too long a story to tell now. It belongs to history. It is sufficient to now to say that this, our day of rejoicing for the great Victory which has been won. Let us remember that it is also a day of Thanksgiving to God for our deliverance from danger, and of Remembrance, for victories are not won without sacrifices. A sad number of our best have given their lives that these things might be. Let us never forget them. More still have lost health, sight or limbs in plaster. Let us see to it that we are not ungrateful. The time will come when we all have to settle down to ordinary life again. A great Englishman put this thought into one of his poems:" ‘The tumult and the shouting dies’. "And now I know of no more fitting words for this occasion than those of Christ himself. ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid. This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man this this: that a man lay down his life for his friend.’ ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ "Let us pray." Hymns on that day were: ‘For all the Saints’, ‘0 God our help in ages past’, the choir sang ‘Freedom’, and finally: ‘God save the King.’ Finally war came to an end on September 17th with Victory in Japan Day as a holiday.
[click here] ... continued Chapter Four
Thank you to all the old pupils and staff who have helped in the production of this history.
Thank you to Mrs. Clay who has put this History together.
Make this a reunion to remember! Thankyou.
* [March 2007] these pages are constantly being updated - please bookmark and re-visit soon
bookmark: Templars School Reunion Home Page
copyright 1998. TileHillKid at Templars and Whoberley. Webmaster: tilehillkid firstname.lastname@example.org