Every part of the day was authentic, from the clothes through to identity cards and ration pack lunches. The children visited the Watercress line and took a train ride with a guide who explained that trains would have had blackout blinds in the windows and dim lighting to prevent German planes spotting them from the air. The journey then took the pupils to Kent where they visited caves 22 miles long used in the war to shelter families from bombing raids. They learned that anyone staying in the caves during the war had to pay 1 penny per night, which was considered quite a high tariff in the 1940s.
Commenting on the day, Dunhurst pupil, Sofia said; "Some of us were wearing berets or a blazer; some people even wore old school uniform that looked like an evacuee outfit from World War 2. When we went on the train it was as cold inside as it was outside. We all got a seat but it was a squash because there were about 3-4 on a bench and about 7-8 by a table. We filled in our identity cards with our names. Before the day, we chose World War 2 names and a birthday. I was called Violet and was born on 19th August 1930."
Dunhurst pupil Oscar added, "When we had registered we went up to the dining hall to get our World War 2 pack lunches. They were not like the modern ones we were used to. Because of rationing in World War 2 there was a limited amount of food. The German planes were bombing the ships so there were no imported goods and no oranges, only apples. We got an apple, a flapjack and a bottle of water. When we arrived at the caves it was quite light but as we got deeper it got darker and darker. Our guide told us that it would have been like an underground city. We saw a hospital and an information bureau and lots and lots of bunk beds in caves."
Commenting on the evacuee experience, Jane Grubb, Head of Dunhurst, said: "By the looks on the children's faces this experience really struck a chord with them. They thoroughly enjoyed immersing themselves into the life of a young evacuee, even devising their own imaginary names and birth dates. They learnt far more about the history of the era by experiencing, at first-hand, the journey of an evacuee. Their understanding and knowledge will be far greater as a result. This was yet another excellent example of learning through doing at Dunhurst - text-books, films and lectures are no substitute for experiences such as this."
Meanwhile, on Tuesday (12 February), Bedales Block 3 students (Year 9) embarked on a four day visit to the World War One trenches as part of their study of European History. The students will attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium which has taken place every evening at 8pm since 1927, except during German occupation in World War Two.