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1939-1945: a potted history of RGS


Did you know that at the start of the September term 1939, the school was closed for 10 days while air raid shelters and trenches were built (the latter by Sixth Form students). Here we share a few short recollections and a potted history of the school between 1939-1945.

Air raid shelter digging

With the imminence of a looming war during the summer of 1939, Surrey County Council had laid plans to build six trench shelters in the unsurfaced playground south of the school buildings, and a further two in the Headmaster’s garden. These were meant to accommodate 400 children. Trench shelters were effectively half-buried in the ground. War was declared against Germany on 3 September. By the start of the autumn term, the trenches had not been finished. Indeed, a delay in getting the work done resulted in Mr Allison enlisting the help of boys from both schools to do the digging (pictured above). Four trenches were ready by 25 September, and the school opened for 200 boys. As the other trenches were completed, more boys started the new term. By the end of October, all the work had been finished.

Personal recollections

“Lessons at RGS were often disrupted during the early years of WWII with regular sirens going off, warning of an aerial attack, and we would run to the bottom of the playground where we could take cover within the air raid shelters.”
David Purchese (RGS 1939-1947)

“In the evenings in 1943 a popular place was the fish and chip shop near Blackborough Road. With the blackout blinds pulled down inside at the windows it was ‘shut the door’ so no light escaped to assist enemy aircraft. Two penneth-worth of chips and a morsel of fish kept the cold out and one’s spirits up.”
Tony Hopkins (RGS 1943-1944)

“I recall carrying my gas mask on the walk to and from school. If we were on the way to school when the air-raid siren sounded, the mothers living along Frenches Road would come out and grab us and take us into their houses or into their air raid shelters.”
Derrick Simmons  (RGS 1943-1949)

“One night our physics homework was to write down everything that worked by electricity in our house. Wright was reprimanded the next day. ‘You have put the date and the title but the page is blank’. Wright answered ‘Yes Sir, I live in Charlwood and we have no electricity, only gas and paraffin’!”
Michael Baker (RGS 1939-1948)

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1939-1945: a potted history of RGS

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