16 February 2003

Ullswater Barton School 4 School and WW2

OldEric says :-) Although we lived in a safe area well away from the effects of war we still had to practise all safety precautions as would be practised and carried out in war torn areas. Every adult and child was issued with a gasmask in case of a gas attack and each child had to take their issued gasmask with them to school each day. So I like others slung my school bag over one shoulder and the gasmask box over my other shoulder and headed for school. The gasmask box was just a square box made of thin highly compressed oiled cardboard with a cord to sling over your shoulder. Even then at that young age I wondered how long the box would last.

I disliked having to put the gasmask on during practise, the close fitting rubber mask used to feel clammy and breathing was difficult with a rubber smell. No plastics in those days, they were not yet invented, rubber was the only suitable material. No one liked putting on gasmasks.

During bombing raids flying glass used to cause lots of injuries so the large school windows had to be treated. Putting adhesive paper strip over the glass in a criss-cross diamond pattern did this. The strip looked very much like narrow masking tape. The glue used was very sticky, in later years it was found to be hard to remove.

Most children found air-raid drill exiting, at the continuous blowing of the teachers whistle we were required to run out of the school, down the back of the playground, over the fence and into the paddock at the rear. Here we had to lie alongside the hedges close in and face down with our faces cuddled in our arms. This was to make us invisible to enemy guns strafing from aircraft. A fine day was always picked for practise.

Fortunately as I said earlier we were in safe area away from enemy attacks. We did see of course the Commando training manoeuvres with tank and armoured vehicle practise but little else. Which reminds me of a story.

One lunchtime we heard the rumble of tanks in the distance and someone said they are coming this way. We rushed out to the road edge and could hear them louder and louder. They had been on manoeuvres and covered in mud and as the army personnel waved to us exited children the tank tracks dropped large sticky clumps of mud on the road. Someone picked up a piece, fashioned it as a snowball and threw it up in the air and splat it landed on the road shaped just like a fried egg. Then someone did the same and threw it at the side of the schoolhouse, splat; it stuck to the sidewall and hung there.

Now the schoolhouse was one of two double-storied and semidetached together with the end wall blank as though waiting for another house to be joined on. The end wall was blank from ground to roof apex and cement plastered.

After the first mud was thrown at the house side and stuck just about every other child had a go and soon the house side was covered in mud splats higher and higher, most of them sticking and those that didn’t a wet brown stain was left on the off white cement wall. Then someone said “what will Miss Paterson say?” and that broke the spell. We all went back into the schoolyard.

Next morning the mud splats were still there stuck to the wall, a very angry headmistress was waiting for us in the classroom. It soon became apparent to her most of the school had taken part and punishment would be difficult. So after a long lecture we were dismissed.

Next morning the local builder with his long ladders scraped all the mud off and scrubbed the stained walls to no avail. The wall dried but the stains remained, the porous cement rendering had absorbed the mud.

Years later when going to secondary school in Penrith we would pass Barton school on the bus each morning and the stains were still there to see, to remind us of that earlier time.

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