Swaffham pupils re-enact wartime evacuation

YOUNG pupils of a Norfolk school experienced what it was like for their forbears seven decades ago when they became wartime evacuees for a day.

YOUNG pupils of a Norfolk school experienced what it was like for their forbears seven decades ago when they became wartime evacuees for a day.

Ninety pupils, aged between eight and nine, from Swaffham Junior School wore 1940s period clothes and carried their gas mask boxes and identity tags when they trod in the footsteps of their predecessors and took on the roles of evacuees arriving into Norfolk from London.

Their day involved travelling on the famous North Norfolk Sheringham to Holt Poppy Line railway, giving them a taste of what it was like for school children travelling by train into the country in the 1940s when Britain was at war with Germany.

The children have been studying the second world war in the classroom but the subject was brought graphically to life for them with the wartime re-enactment.

They experienced an air raid activated by an ARP warden and were given demonstrations in the use of their gas marks.

In a day packed with wartime experiences and dramas, the youngsters were also involved in the famous Dig for Victory campaign by planting their own potatoes, learning the steps of the famous Cockney Lambeth Walk dance number and joining in with the singing of wartime songs, including Run Rabbit Run.

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To add to the experience, they even took sandwiches for the journey filled with Spam, cheese and jam.

The role-playing day was part of the pupils' wartime studies in the school classroom in which they had even created their own life-size Anderson shelters. During the project the youngsters kept a diary of what they had been learning about the years between 1939 and 1945 when Britain stood up against the might of the Nazi military and fought off the very real threat of invasion of our shores.

Linda Powley, one of the teaching assistants who accompanied the children, said the children thoroughly enjoyed their mock wartime experiences. Also with them were teaching staff and some parents.

'The children really rehearsed their roles in advance and got into their characters. They even had to react quickly and dive for cover under chairs and tables when the air raid was sounded. They had to react when, as role-playing brothers and sisters, they were told the grim news that they would be split up and be billeted by two different families,' said Mrs Powley.

She added: 'The whole day was a fantastic experience for the children. Not only was it a great learning experience for them, but they were all very well behaved and were a credit to the school.'

Mrs Powley said the school was grateful for the all the help given by the enthusiastic staff on the North Norfolk Railway who dressed in period costume and took on a number of character-acting roles.