I have just come out of lock-down. The experience has made me recall the time I was sent to be educated in Hemel.
I was then in a group of boys, around eight years old, who, like me, were without both parents and home as a result of the onset of war. Indeed, we arrived to be locked-down (so to speak) in Gadebridge Park in September 1939, the month war was declared. Little did we know that we would be there for four years, and how fortunate we were, in this beautiful park, to be in the care and tutelage of a group of the most kind and generous local people. Many of them had fought in the Great War twenty years before, some still carried their wounds, and some were retired teachers who had volunteered to return to work “for the war effort”. We found kindness on all sides, and especially from the clergy and congregation of old St Mary’s church where we were welcomed each Sunday. This was despite our almost complete failure in singing; the Canon said we sounded as though we were actually wearing the gas masks which, early in the war, we had to carry with us everywhere.
This was all a long time ago but it was never acknowledged, so we are trying to find the descendants of these teachers (below) who looked after us throughout the war. Our aim is to tell their families “What grandpa did during the last war” from which so many young lives benefitted. We have already found William Sweet-Escott’s grandson, and there will surely be one or two still in the Dacorum area – like for example the family of Mr Thorne, our boxing coach, who was a wonderfully cheerful old soldier with great stories, always generous with his time (sadly we don’t have his photo).
Will you please help find the grandchildren of our teachers? The Hemel Gazette will I had an item about in late July 2020.