Beginning on September 2nd 1939, this delightful, handwritten diary chronicles the evacuation of the Hardman Street (girls) and Wavertree (boys) RSB to Rhyl in North Wales.
“Through the wonderful Mersey Tunnel for the first time for many of us…”
The entire school is initially relocated to ‘The School for the Blind’, Russell Road, Rhyl, after which a house is found for them. In the new house the girls have limited space, so their workroom during the day, which is kitted out with five knitting machines and a piano, becomes a lounge in the evening, where they listen to the radio, write letters and sing songs. The teachers also read aloud to the pupils.
The girls can hear the air raids over Liverpool as well as enduring plenty of air raid warnings in Rhyl.
The diary chronicles the daily routine for the girls; walking in good weather, (with the sighted pupils leading the non-sighted pupils) and doing daily chores when it rains. Other elements of their daily routine include visits to the beach to paddle, and gas mask drills in the dormitory.
“One afternoon we saw all the children on the sands paddling. We decided to do the same. Big, little. Boys and girls in twos, threes, fours and fives, all paddling. Fun, laughter, singing all enjoying it.”
“A day was fixed for Gas Mask Drill and the only suitable place was the Dorm, so there we assembled – all complete with hats on and respirators – an imaginary wall was fixed and suddenly Mr Dyson would give the alarm – off hats, on gas masks. That sounds easy, but we were not quite so quick….”
The progress of the war is never far from the students’ thoughts because from their place of safety in Rhyl, the girls can hear the air raids over Liverpool as well as enduring plenty of air raid warnings in Rhyl.
“On Friday morning at 11.30am we heard the air raid warning – a second elapsed before we realised what it meant. Immediately we shut the window – got our gas masks besides us and awaited for developments. Miss Roberts and I carried Hilda down and fixed her on the couch…”
The diary describes Christmas day and a festive time is had despite the war and rationing.
“At last Christmas Day is upon us. During the morning we had a walk – then into dinner – roast pork. What a lovely meal and Christmas pudding….the boys came for their meals and needless to say they enjoyed them”
As 1940 progresses, the diary chronicles news of how the war is progressing with the final entry showing that the excitement was wearing off and weary resignation was perhaps setting in.
“Great news, the first squadron of Canadian Air Men arrived. Something to be proud of. First their desire to come and help us and the actual getting them over. Marvellous.”
“10th May 1940, Germany invades Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.”
January – February 1941
“Once again our rest was disturbed. At 8.30 pm banshee wailing shattered our enjoyment of the peaceful night. Since there were so many of us, we went to the kitchen, the safest room in the house. Beds were brought down to the second floor and we went to bed. The all – clear sounded at 1.20 am.”
The diary gives us an insight into what life was like for student in 1939 and it is a rare account from the archives that is from the students rather than teachers, governors or those in positions of authority.