In the Autumn of 1938, with the threat of war hanging over our unlucky heads, a meeting of parents assembled  to hear the LCC Evacuation Scheme explained. It was an unforgettable occasion. Parents crammed the Hall, stood in the doorways of Class-rooms, crowded the corridors as far as the Playground, and listened in tense silence while I  explained our part in the plan – to take the girls away from London, see them suitably billeted, and continue their education, as far as possible, on pre-war lines, maintaining the identity of the School.
Had war been declared at that time, we should have taken away practically all our scholars, and I was deeply moved by the parents’ expressions of absolute trust in the Elliott staff. However, the Munich agreement secured us a year’s respite, during which many parents made other plans. Some decided to keep their children at home and trust to the Air-Raid shelters supplied by the Government. Others arranged for their children to be privately evacuated to friends and relatives in various parts of the country. Many of the older girls left. Consequently, when we left Southfields in September, 1939, our party numbered only 143 girls, plus 41 small brothers and sisters. The other girls – as pupils – I never saw again, for we remained away for six whole years, until the end of the Summer Term, 1945. Such a prospect would have seemed quite incredible to us, as we trudged up Replingham Road, carrying suitcases, rugs, and ‘iron rations’, to be seen off at Southfields Station by a crowd of well-wishers, who cheerfully assured us that we should be back in a fortnight, after a nice little holiday in the country!
Our ‘destination unknown’ turned out to be Guildford. In this we were lucky indeed, for Guildford is not only a charming little town, but it is easily reached from London, so that throughout the War Years, parents were able to keep in touch with the School. Before we left our ‘country home’, we had become an integral part of Guildford, and had made educational experiments and developed activities which would have been impossible in the more stereotyped routine of London School life.
Not that everything was plain sailing, especially at first. Billeting gave us much trouble, and not until we got matters into our own hands, was the problem of finding the right billet for the individual finally solved. Moreover, during September and October, 1939, the Guildford Schools remained closed, pending the completion of Air-raid shelters. For the local children, living in their own homes, this meant an extension of the normal Summer holidays. But evacuees had to be taken out of their billets for the greater part of the day, and provided with some kind of organised school life: fortunately, the weather was glorious, so we held open-air classes in the parks and on the Surrey hills, and visited every place of literary, geographical or historical interest within walking distance. We explored Guildford very thoroughly, and were taken over the famous Grammar School by the Headmaster himself, a scholarly gentleman with a dry sense of humour. When we came to the Library of ancient books, chained to the shelves, one of our little First Year girls naively asked whether the boys came there to study, and he gravely replied, ‘I regret to say that none of them shows any overwhelming desire to do so.’ Our top class (a very small one, because so many had left school when war seemed inevitable) pursued its normal timetable in the house of a kindly lady, whose garden was also placed at our disposal for dramatic work and country-dancing.
On November 6th School buildings were re-opened: the little brothers and sisters were drafted into local schools, and we were allowed to use The Guildford Central School premises for afternoons only. The snag about this arrangement was that since our numbers did not warrant the use of the whole school, some of the Guildford Central School classes were there all day, and the Head Master had full time possession of his Private room, so that I had to do my clerical work in a classroom where teaching was going on, and receive parents and visitors, of whom I had a great number, in a Cloakroom, or, on fine days, in the playground!
The Morning problem was solved by planting classes in various Church Halls, in the Technical Institute, and in a room over the Library. We also secured Games Pitches in the Parks and met together at the beginning of each day in the Methodist Church Hall, which was also used for Singing Lessons and formal Physical Training. An enormously complicated Time Table was evolved, which permitted our Staff to specialise as they had done in London.
My Staff and I had from the first resolved that however difficult it might be, we would preserve all our traditional customs and ceremonies; so throughout the War Years we continued to hold our Annual Speech Days, O E  Memorial Services, Concerts, Dramatic Entertainments, Sport Days, Open Days and House Parties. Even in our first Christmas Holiday, 1939-1940, we had a Christmas Tree Party, and the girls performed a Nativity Play by R H Benson, and dramatised parts of ‘1066 and all that’. As the years went by, these Christmas parties spread over the whole holiday period, and served to dispel any home-sickness which might set in when School routine was relaxed. Every class contributed one or more dramatic items; individual pupils played solos, sang and recited; dancing, games and competitions filled up every spare moment, and the ‘Helpers’ attached to the school cut up incredible piles of sandwiches and cake. These affairs were not only enjoyable in themselves, but did much to make us popular with the foster-parents, who were always invited. Often, too, we had ‘real parents’ from London, and old scholars – many in uniform – would drop in to see how we were getting on, and to talk about old times.
In April, 1940, I was asked by the LCC Inspector to admit some boys who had qualified for Central School education but for whom no Boys’ School was available. Having started, I continued to admit boys every year, and the School was further augmented, as time went on, by qualified pupils from Junior Schools in Guildford and neighbouring villages, and from Peckham Park and Croydon, re-evacuated from the South coast . The Croydon contingent included a group of refugee boys (mostly from Germany) who all did splendidly at school, and enhanced its reputation for brains and loyalty. The last big influx of pupils, in 1942, was from the Wandsworth Central School (billeted at Godalming) when, because of diminishing numbers, it had to be closed down. The Headmaster, Mr S Nugent, subsequently took over the Mixed Emergency School in London, which had been started by my Head Assistant, Mrs Thomas, and he remained there until our return in 1945, when separate Boys’ and Girls’ Schools were re-established, and he, for a short time, became Head of the Boys’ school.
But this is anticipating. It was in September, 1941, that we at last secured our own premises at Guildown House. Our elation cannot adequately be described, for Guildown had a delightful garden, complete with lawns, terraces and sun-dial, a rock-pool, shrubbery, and a kitchen-garden in which the boys could dig and plant under the direction of our Garden-caretaker, Mr Wells. The big old-fashioned kitchen was modernised, the wine-cellars were reinforced and provided with seats to make a comfortable Air-raid shelter, the Bathroom (exceptionally large) became a Medical Room, Servants’ quarters became Cloakrooms, and the Garage provided space for hobbies like puppetry, model-making and light wood-work. We thoroughly appreciated the prompt action of our ever-helpful Inspector, Mr Baylis, in securing for us this permanent home, and both boys and girls worked enthusiastically to make it as comfortable as possible. The boys scrubbed desks and tables, the girls dusted and polished, the House shields and the OE Memorial wreath were hung up on the staircase, and a piano installed in the Hall.
With our joyous translation to Guildown House, all sorts of new actives became possible. The kitchen-garden proving insufficient for the needs of our canteen, I took over a couple of allotments and we also began to keep rabbits and poultry. Our first blackberrying expedition brought in enough fruit for the girls to make 200lbs of jam and jelly, which we shared with other schools. The girls said it might have been 300lbs if the boys had picked more and eaten less!
Unfortunately, Guildown House could not accommodate all our pupils, for at one time the Role numbered close on 300, so some classes were still located at the Technical Institute and the Methodist Church premises. We secured more pitches for games, the Girls attended a Cookery Centre over which an Elliott mistress presided, and the Boys were fixed up at a local Wood-work centre. The Time-table became even more complicated, and there was always a class ‘on the road’ from one place to another. Everyone came up to the House for dinner, which was served in relays.
For various reasons our original staff had been depleted, but new teachers joined us, the LCC lending us (among others) Mr Drakes , while Croydon Education Authority contributed Mr Bennets , Mr Kear, and Mr Bassett, all splendid colleagues with whom it was a joy to work. To celebrate our acquisition of Guildown House, we promptly held three Housewarming parties which were attended by 330 foster-parents, real parents, friends and old scholars, who were served with tea on the lawn while contingents of boys and girls entertained them with songs, dancing, drama, and gymnastics.
In the crowded years that followed, certain things stand our very vividly in my memory: the troop-trains bearing exhausted and wounded soldiers from Dunkirk, who were meet at Guildford Station by some of my Staff and Senior girls and offered tea and cigarettes; the Air-raid alarm in the middle of dinner which sent us all to the cellars, where after a hungry interlude, the meal was passed down from above, the staff organising a chain of hands; the Snow-man build on the carriage drive and appropriately adorned with school cap and tie; the dramatic entertainments at which the girls discovered, partly to their delight and partly to their chagrin, that boys could ‘make up’ as girls, as well as girls would ‘make up’ as boys; the socials for which some boys with unruly hair prepared themselves by putting their heads under the tap; and numberless visits to concerts, lectures, films and plays, for in a small country town all these are readily accessible.
Among the notable people we saw and heard were Eric Gill, the sculptor (then working on Guildford Cathedral), Francesca French, the explorer Don Bernard Clements, and David Seth Smith, the Zoo-Man of the B B C who, of course, told us amusing anecdotes about ‘Elephants’. We went to see T S Eliot’s play ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ performed in its proper setting, a Cathedral; we saw W B Yeats’ ‘Resurrection’ in the same surroundings; we were invited to the Guildford Historical Pageant produced by Eileen Thorndyke, and contributed an item to the Guildford musical Festival; we heard Musical Recitals by Albert Sammons and Irene Scharrer and saw Vaughan Williams conduct his own composition ‘The Wasps’. A hundred and ten Elliottonians attended a performance of Mozart’s opera ‘Bastien and Bastienne’. But most of all I remember with pride and pleasure the day when Evelyn Stevens, on behalf of London school-children, presented a bouquet to Mrs Roosevelt on her visit to County Hall, October 27th, 1942. Afterwards we were entertained to lunch and listened to speeches by Mrs Roosevelt, Mr Eden and others. Altogether a Red-Letter Day in the School’s history and that the Elliott should have been selected for this honour was very gratifying.
During our occupation of Guildown House we entertained a continual stream of visitors, including Sir Grahame Savage, Education Officer to the LCC, Lady Nathan, Mrs Bentwick, Mr Ammon (Chairman of the LCC ), Mr Chas Robertson (Chairman of the LCC Education Committee), Sir Claude de la Fosse (Chairman of the Guildford Higher Education Committee), the Mayor and Town Clerk of Guildford, Mr Lawrence Powell (Chairman of Guildford Education Committee), Inspectors, Government Inspectors, Clergy of all denominations, and, of course, Mr and Mrs Price, our own Chairman of Managers, the Rev H C Green, and Lieutenant Colonel Elliott, C B E, eldest son of Sir Charles Elliott, who lived at Cranleigh, near Guildford.
Throughout our stay Colonel Elliott gave yearly prizes of £1 each to the girls I thought most remarkable for (1) Character and influence, (2) Scholarship or Athletics. Mrs Elliott was keenly interested in the Verse-speaking Auditions, which, by arrangement with the Poetry Society, were held from time to time at Guildown House. During the War we obtained, in addition to many Certificates, 42 Bronze Medals, 12 Junior Silver Medals, 9 Senior Silver Medals, and (a rare and difficult achievement ) 4 Gold Medals, the Society’s highest award. When Colonel and his wife were celebrating their Golden Wedding, two school representatives, a boy and a girl, took some gifts to Cranleigh – they included a Gilt Elephant – and were privileged to see some of the family treasures, relics of the Indian Mutiny, including the sword and shield of a Rajah who nearly succeeded in killing Sir Charles Elliott.
In 1945, with the end of the War in sight, I began to collect statistics of outstanding successes during the period 1939-1945. They seem to me worth recording as a tribute to staff and pupils.
Apart from the Verse-Speaking Medals already mentioned, we had :-
1. 65 Oxford School Certificates, including 40 of Matriculation status.
2. 6 Chamber of Commerce Certificates, one girl securing 1st place in England for French and another 2nd place.
3. 23 Stage 1 Certificates in Royal Society of Arts Examinations, 36 in Stage II, and 1 in stage III (Advanced).
4. 4 Pitman’s Shorthand Certificates at 120wpm together with a great number for speeds of 100wpm and 80wpm. The girls also typed and duplicated the War-Time School magazines.
5. 5 Technical Scholarships (Boys), and in addition 2 for the Nautical School, 1 Naval Artificer’s, 1 Art Scholarship, and 1 Clerkship.
In sport, we were equally successful, for in June, 1943, Guildford held a ‘Victory Week’ campaign, part of which included Inter-School Sports. The Elliott girls took 1st place in all the races and in the 150-yard Race for girls between 14 and 16, we came 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th. The Boys, though relatively few in number, secured one 1st place, two 2nd places, and two 3rd places. The Girls won both Relay Races, Circular and Shuttle, and also gave a Display of Country Dancing, while the Boys staged a Gymnastic Display.
In the following year, 1944, Guildford organised a ‘Salute the Soldier Week’, which again included Inter-School Sports. The Elliott Girls received all four prizes, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively and one of our Boys came 4th in the 220-yard race for boys between 16 and 18.In June, 1945, I ventured to ask the Chief Inspector, Mr John Brown (now Education Officer) to present Prizes at our last war-time Speech Day. Among other guests on the platform were Colonel and Mrs Elliott, Mr Bayliss (Inspector), Mr Greenwood (Deputy Education Officer for Croydon), Mr Lawrence Powell (Guildford Education Committee) and Mr Mitchell, Acting Head of the Elliott Boys’ School at Woking, with which we had kept in touch throughout the War, exchanging magazines, and meeting for friendly games. All the visitors were afterwards entertained to lunch at Guildown House, the girls acting as waitresses.
Mr Brown, speaking for the LCC, said it was obvious that the Elliott School was doing ‘Secondary School work of a very high order.’ Mr Powell, speaking for the Guildford authority, said that the complimentary letters the Head Mistress had from time to time received from his Committee, were no mere formal tribute. The Guildford people were really impressed by the tone and achievements of the London school which had for so long lived in their midst, and which they regarded with respect and affection. At the end of the meeting, Mr Powell kindly gave me tickets for a box at the Albert Hall, so that some of my girls could see a performance of Hiawatha.
This Speech Day lives especially in my memory not only because it was our last at Guildford, but because it represented the peak of our achievements as a War-time school. Our academic successes in 1944-45 included 19 School Certificates out of a possible 20, 14 of them entitling the owners to apply for Matriculation exemption. At this time there were actually four languages being taught in the school, French, of course, to all, Latin to intending teachers, German to a few selected pupils, and Hebrew to the Jewish children, who were taught by a visiting Rabbi. Our athletics, our dancing, and our Choral Singing were first-rate; while, thanks to the excellent concerts provided by the LCC and Guildford, musical appreciation had never been more intense. Our social and practical activities, too, were multifarious, and the School’s contribution to various ‘War Efforts’ amounted to more than £120 besides the investment of over £5,000 in the School’s Saving Association.
By Evacuation standards, our School was a large one, and it is hardly possible for outsiders to realise the work that a non-stop School entails. The dinner interval was fully occupied by our ‘two sittings’, which, when Oxford Examinations were going on, often became ‘three sittings’. Recreational activities overflowed into evenings and weekends, and continued all through the holidays, being supervised by a rota of teachers, who of course had to take their compensatory leave in term time, which necessitated further juggling with a Time-table already complicated by the fact that we were never all together under the same roof except at morning assembly and social gatherings. Billeting troubles never really ceased, for as the War dragged on, many of the Guildford householders had to offer hospitality to bombed-out friends and relatives, and new billets had to be found for our young people.
Then there was much clerical work to be done, and in those days we had no Secretary. Every week I had to supply statistics of the number of LCC children, Croydon children, and children from other Boroughs, who were being educated in the School. Every week, too, I had to pay out Bus Fares to the children who travelled into Guildford from outlying villages, and check their attendances from the registers. In addition there were the School Accounts, and collections for various causes. Miss Allen ran the large National Savings Association, and Miss Whitty supervised Dinner Accounts and the sale of uniform.
During the last term at Guildford, most of our older scholars sought employment, and I spent much of my time securing posts, writing testimonials, and arranging interviews. It was a shock to realise that many of our best loved pupils belonged to other parts of London (sometimes other parts of the country) and would not be able to continue their education in our school after its return. For them, transfers were arranged to Grammar and Central Schools in their own districts. By July 18th, 1945, the date of our ‘Farewell Social’, we were all feeling exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Mr Bayliss was the guest of honour. He said he had come to thank everyone who had helped to make our Evacuation experiment such an outstanding success – the School staff, the foster-parents, the canteen staff, the caretakers of Guildown House and the Methodist Hall, and the billet-helpers. Gifts were exchanged and the programme carried out to the final Auld Lang Syne, but a cloud of depression hung over us all, for we knew that although we were going home, the unique intimacy of our war-time life together was approaching its end, that particular pattern of joint experience would never be repeated! But on Friday, the 20th July, 1945, came the most bitter-sweet gathering of our last week. We had a civic send off, the Mayor himself coming down to Morning Assembly to wish us God Speed from a platform over which appeared an illuminated scroll bearing the words ‘FAREWELL – GOD BLESS YOU’. After the Mayor’s departure, I held a short ‘unofficial’ presentation of certificates and prizes awarded by members of the staff, including some Gardening Prizes from Wells, our Gardener-caretaker. Perhaps the greatest surprise of the morning was when a 5th Year boy, egged on by the Croydon contingent, launched unexpectedly into a speech on their behalf, so warm and so eloquent in its praise of the ‘home-like atmosphere of the Elliott School’, that we were all moved by it.
After our last lunch at Guildown, we collected our luggage – already piled up at the House – and moved off to the Station. The Croydon party went off first; the Londoners followed by a later train. At the station was a little crowd of friends and foster-parents, some of the latter on the verge of tears. In the circumstances we were really grateful for such small diversions as that afforded by the boy who turned up with a clothe-horse slung halter-wise round his neck – his own work, he blandly explained – a present for his mother, and since both his hands were occupied, there was no other way of getting it home. At last we reached Waterloo, where a crowd of parents almost shook our hands off and quite overwhelmed us with thanks and praise. Well, we had done all we set out to do: kept the school intact, given our charges a liberal education and a fully developed social life: by all the rules we should have felt triumphant and glad, but all we could think of for the moment was that the School at Guildford was now irrevocably dispersed, and it was with sad hearts that we returned to the empty house for a last bout of clearing up and cleaning up.
Note: this is a transcription of a document given to June Broomer (Austin) during her visit to Guildown House in February 2008. The document is a record written by Miss E M Hewetson, Headmistress of the Elliott Girls School following the school’s evacuation to Guildford during the War. Patrick Williams believe it is part of a much longer history of the school held at the London Metropolitan Archives.  at The Elliott Girls School in Merton Road, Southfields  Headmistress Miss E M Hewetson  Old Elliottonians  Mostly from Southwick  probably Mr Drake  probably Mr Benneto
The most successful and, by universal consent, the pleasantest Term we have so far spent at Guildford is drawing to a close. We are now quite settled in our country home at Guildown House and much appreciate having a place of our very own, where we are surrounded by some of our treasures from the old school, and where the lovely gardens and extensive views over the wooded Surrey hills are a never-ending source of delight.
Soon after we moved into Guildown House, we held three very successful Open Days which were attended by a number of old scholars. Last week we were visited “officially” by quite a galaxy of distinguished people representing the London and Guildford authorities – Mr. Ammon (Chairman of the London County Council) and Mrs.Ammon, Mr. Charles Robertson (Chairman of the L.C.C.Education Committee), Mr. Wilkinson (Mayor of Guildford), Mr. Wilson, the Town Clerk, Sir Claude de la Fosse (Chairman of the Surrey Education Committee), Mr. Bayliss (L.C.C. Inspector of Schools), and Mr.Tosswill (Education Secretary to the Guildford Committee). We were delighted to invite them to the Elliott School, and hope they will retain pleasant memories of their visit. They were enthusiastic about the appearance of the children and the advanced character of their work.
This letter is the first since war broke out to be really and truly written “from the Headmistress’s desk” which, to my great satisfaction, recently arrived from London with other familiar articles of furniture. Outside my room, at the head of the staircase, hangs the wreath of laurel and poppies which is dedicated to the memory of all Old Elliottonian's who gave up their lives either in this or in the last Great War. Near it hangs a new acquisition presented to the House by Miss Lehmkuhler. It is a gong of antique brass, and we use it to mark the end of lesson periods and to summon the hungry to dinner, for we now have our own canteen on the premises. We acknowledge the gift with gratitude, and hope the day is not too distant when Miss Lehmkuhler will be able to see it for herself.
Although the best of the summer had passed before we got into Guildown House, we were in time to enjoy some Country Dancing on one of our three lawns, and our wonderful Gardener-Schoolkeeper, Mr. Wells, is now busy converting that same lawn into a netball court. Brand new goal posts have arrived, and we hope to have some good games, beginning with a “friendly” match – Elliott Girls versus Elliott Boys from Woking – next Tuesday. This meeting, to be followed by as much of a “bunfight” as we can manage in wartime is part of the relaxation devised for themselves by the Oxford School Certificate candidates from both schools! I notice they usually do very well for themselves in this way as soon as the Exam. Is over! Well, they deserve it, and good luck to them all.
Our nine girls were somewhat handicapped by the departure of Miss Naldrett towards the end of September. We ought not, I suppose, begrudge Miss Naldrett to the W.A.A.F. especially as her scientific knowledge and skill are being utilized by the Meteorological Office. We understand that she ‘plots weather conditions’ for Bomber Command, so if she does the job as thoroughly as she did her work at the Elliott, the end of the war should soon be in sight. I am afraid the New Year will deprive us of Miss Petty, who has rendered such yeoman service in the way of supervising and obtaining billets. It is impossible to thank her adequately, but we shall always regard her as an Elliottonian whatever new work she takes up or wherever she may be. Two new mistresses have joined the Staff – Miss Huntley taking Miss Naldrett’s post, and Miss Hill being an additional teacher necessitated by the admission of 45 new pupils in November. We hope they will feel that they have dropped into a ‘live’ and interesting school, where their talents will find ample scope and satisfaction.
A very welcome visitor to the School this Term was Colonel Elliott, whose stories from the family history were listened to with rapt attention. Mrs. Elliott was able to accompany him and we hope to see them both again next Term, at our Prize Distribution. This year the voting for the Memorial Prize Winner resulted in a draw. The prize Money will therefore be divided between Joan Pace and Rita Webber, and Betty Solly will get the Rev. H.C.Green’s prize. Congratulations to all three. They are excellent girls. Vera Cocking won the Championship Medal at our 1941 Sports Day and this was presented to her by Colonel Elliott. Sam Welch and Florrie Bovington, who scored the highest number of individual points for Junior Boys and Girls, have already received Book Prizes.
In the New Year we hope to see the Film which we helped to make for the Ministry of Information. Our share of it was a netball match with the Guildford Central School. And now we are preparing for our Christmas festivities, which are to include a party, a professional entertainment, home-made ‘dramatics’, a cinema show, a Fancy-dress parade, and anything else we can cram in! I hope, too, that some of the London parents will be able to see some of our doings immediately after Christmas. They and the children alike deserve, as the Chairman of the L.C.C. remarked the other day, to be congratulated on their sensible and self-controlled contribution to the War effort, for of what avail will it be to win the war, if the new generation are crippled in mind or body by war conditions? At Guildford, at any rate they are escaping its worst evils, and in the peace and security of the countryside, are laying the foundation of a successful career when Hitler and his hideous regime have faded into the limbo of evil dreams. And so, a happy and quiet Christmas, with victory in the New Year, is the earnest wish of the Elliott Staff for all of you.
I was evacuated from Peckham in 1939, two days after my 10th.birthday. By 1941, I had been through the experiences of most London schoolchildren who were taught in the fragmented circumstances of shared schools in country towns and villages. Eventually I was moved again, this time to the Elliott School in Guildford which was a 45 minute bus ride from home. My first class with The Elliott was in a room at the Park Street Institute by the Guildford bus terminus. Here, we registered with Mr.Kear for the day and other teachers came and went for various subjects. It was the time of the Free French freedom fighters, so Miss Casley taught us to sing “La Marseillaise” and put pictures of the Cross of Lorraine around the room. We also learnt basic French. Girls only there, if I remember. My next promotion was to the building of the Guildford Central School at the top of the High Street. Here we had one room, with Mr.Bennetto as our teacher. He had massive eyebrows which went up and down like brushes when he spoke. He could be very fierce and, in this mixed class, always had the cane ready as deterrent for any boy who was talking instead of working.
The final move was to Guildown House – an elegant mansion with beautiful grounds about 15 minutes walk from Guildford High Street. Here was the stability and educational expectation which I had not experienced since 1939. The atmosphere was more like that of the private schools of today, with an ethos to match. Heaven help anyone seen outside the school without the distinctive uniform complete and tidily worn. And as for eating in the street while wearing the Elliott identity of black and red hatband or tie with the enamel elephant badge, well there was always a lurking prefect to report you. Then up before the austere Headmistress, Miss Hewetson, for letting down the school by sloppy behaviour! I remember the sudden order to pick up our books and lead out of class and down into the caves under Guildown House (which were presumably the wine-cellars) to continue our work when an air-raid warning had been given. We had hot meals, for the first time, and queued in a long corridor for meat stew and tough orange jelly made with rose-hip syrup topped with semolina. We carried the meals back upstairs to our classroom and ate them at our desks. The person on duty was often Miss Rolfe, a strict maths teacher, who inspected our plates to make sure we had not left a mouthful – however distasteful – as ‘there were people starving in Europe and we should be grateful’. There were both teenage boys and girls at Guildown House but I now realise that the girls often had a different programme to the boys as a recent contact said he remembered neither the caves nor the hot meals.
We had school assembly in a church hall in one part of Guildford and then dispersed to walk as quickly as possible to our various bases. We walked miles! I remember going to Stoke Park School in a crocodile of girls for our cookery lesson, back to Guildown House for dinner-time, and then down to Shalford Park for hockey. With the walk up the Portsmouth Road in the morning to start with and then back to the bus at night, this meant at least 4 miles of walking on some days, just to be somewhere for lessons! Playtime and lunchtime meant the girls of Guildown House could use the lovely garden with its paths and seats but the boys were confined to the tennis court to play their cricket or active games. The resident gardener, Mr.Wells, housed in his adjoining cottage, made sure that nothing like that happened in the ornamental grounds, so we girls wandered around sedately like young ladies from a Victorian novel. In keeping with the custom of the time, after that first co-ed class, the boys led a separate existence within the same building so, although we were aware of them in that small environment, we had no contact to speak of unless we saw them going to or from school.
Our curriculum was shaped by the space, opportunity and teachers available so, as it was obviously not possible to include any of the science subjects, this was substituted by a programme of commercial lessons. These were typing, shorthand and book-keeping, and carried as much weight in the final exams for the Oxford School Leaving Certificate as English, maths, etc. and the results included in the final tally to decide if you had achieved Matriculation level. I remember climbing flights of stairs to a cold attic room at Guildown House for typing practice, with the boys queuing outside until the girls had finished! For many of us, this grounding in secretarial skills was to help much more in getting immediate work than any science lab. topics could have done. Not all of us were able to follow the school back to its base in London after 1945 as circumstances prevented my family from returning. Peckham Rye was substituted for the hills of Surrey. Career became marriage and children. The predictions by Miss Hewetson that I would make a good teacher (if I worked hard!) did not come to fruition until I was able to become a mature-student. I like to think that if I was any good at it for those 20 teaching years, it was based on the examples set by those redoubtable men and women of The Elliott who taught us at Guildford in the difficult war times.
The greatest and most unforgettable day of my life was when I had the honour of presenting a bouquet of roses to Mrs Roosevelt on the occasion of her visit to County Hall. Miss Hewetson took me to London, where we meet my father and mother, and on arrival at County Hall, I was told just what to do. After the presentation, we had lunch at County Hall and a lady at my table drank my health, saying "This is to our youngest guest". It was indeed a great day for me, and one which I shall always remember."
The event took place on 27 October 1942 and the above recollection was later published in the school magazine. June Broomer says she was in the same class as Evelyn and remembers watching her practising the curtsey. She thinks Evelyn may have been selected because her mother was an acquaintance of Miss Hewetson and she felt the presentation would be in safe hands.
Evelyn was not actual representing the Elliott, she was there to represent all The Children of London A photograph showing Evelyn presenting roses to Mrs Roosevelt (in which Miss Hewetson is seen behind Evelyn) is available for purchase from Getty Images Click Here