Reminiscence Workshop: Told & Untold Stories

This space has far too quiet lately!  We’ve been busy delivering workshops as well as preparing for several new exciting projects, including a new exhibition, upcoming walking tours, and gearing up for new community-led projects.  I’ll update more on that later, but for now, a recent reminiscence workshop we held…

We all know that archives are a necessary stop for many historical researchers and family historians, looking to gather information.

At the same time, archives (with their many stories, both familiar and unfamiliar) are also catalysts for hearing, sharing, and gathering the experiences of others. With this in mind, we held a reminiscence workshop, Told & Untold Stories: Protecting London’s Children During the Second World War, here in the IOE Archives during May.

Evacuees  Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

Evacuees
Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

The event, offered in conjunction with the Raphael Samuel History Centre’s month-long heritage festival, London at War, explored the experiences of London ‘s children, along with the adults working to keep them safe. We uncovered untold stories from our
archive collections, and heard from participants’ own histories, while lecturers and PhD candidates shared their research.

Discussion often revolved around the theme of evacuation: those who stayed in London and the UK, and those who went abroad. Attendee Margaret described the ‘mutual envy between the people who stayed and the people who went… My parents were a bit smug about not sending us to America or Canada’.

Reminiscence Session

Reminiscence Session

Meg, who was evacuated to America, described her time abroad as a ‘huge educational experience’, having discovered other views. Margaret echoed those sentiments, recalling a friend who returned with surprise that England was a monarchy. Mary
described her childhood in Wimbledon, and the amount of bombing she and her family experienced.

We had our own collections on display: from the bomb damage of schools and the implementation of air raid precautions found in the Girls Day School Trust
collection, to the National Union of Women Teachers and their support of teachers sent to teach evacuated children. Teachers wrote to the NUWT, frustrated at being separated from their former pupils, others wrote to express how enjoyable the experience had been. Upon returning to a crowded London school following the war, one teacher complained of the ’44 hooligans’ she had in her class.

More than anything, the NUWT and its members were concerned about the impact of war on their students.

The shadow of war has darkened our personal and professional outlook; its effect on the education of our children is one of the gravest of its menaces. Whoever made this war it was not the children, and it is our part to see that they suffer no more than can be helped from its horrors and deprivations
Ellen Hamlyn, London Unit President, NUWT
September 1940

A huge thank you to everyone who made the trip to the IOE to attend this session.  The only request from attendees was for a longer session, as everyone had so many compelling stories to share; so, we will definitely offer similar workshops in the future.  Also, a big thanks to the Girls Day School Trust alumnae network for sharing this event with their members!  While we have GDST archives in our collections, it was great to hear the experiences of GDST alum, firsthand.

These reminiscences are in the process of being made available as audio oral histories online, so keep your eyes peeled! If you know of a group that would be interested in a reminiscence workshop using the IOE archives, please send me an email at alexandra.hall@ioe.ac.uk, or call 020 7911 5483.

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Remembering London Lives

 Remembering London Lives: Going to School in London

London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HB
Friday 18 May 2012
10am-3.30pm

FREE EVENT—PLEASE BOOK IN ADVANCE
To book call: 020 7332 3851 or email ask.lma@cityoflondon.gov.uk

[To see the full programme click on the image above right]

Come along to this joint event between London Metropolitan Archives and the Institute of Education and share your memories of school days in London.
There will be a chance to see film footage from the Inner London Education Authority, documents and photographs. There will also be time to share your thoughts and memories of your time at school or as a schoolteacher.

The NUWT and the Mayor of Holborn, 1942

The last few day’s cataloguing has consisted of files on NUWT annual conferences with each folder containing material on one annual conference.  A lot of this has been very similar – agendas, arrangements for accommodation, financial reports etc and al this is great as it means it’s quite quick to catalogue! however it’s also been nice to stumble across unexpected things such as the scrapbook I talked about a few days ago.

I’ve just come across another interesting find, a photograph from the 1942 conference held in London.  I would have assumed that during the war the NUWT stopped their annual conferences but it’s nice to see that they didn’t.  The conferences kept going although inevitably they were smaller due to travel and work difficulties. 

NUWT Collection ref UWT/D/374/3 ©Institute of Education Archive

This photograph shows Dora Appleby (the NUWT President) with Brigitte Pearson (the Vice-President) and the Mayor of Holborn.  Accompanying the photograph is a letter from the General Secretary of the NUWT, Muriel Pierotti, to the Mayor of London thanking him for the time he took to come to the conference and give a Civil Welcome.  She mentions that many members of the NUWT, for whom this is their first war-time visit to London, were shocked by the destruction caused by bombings and she ends by thanking him again for taking the time to help make the conference a success.  It’s also great to see the NUWT banner in the background as we don’t actually have any of these in the collection. What a nice way to finish a day’s work for me!

WWII poster find – ‘Watch Your Meters’

This gem of a poster ‘Watch your Meters’ turned up in three folders of material I’m cataloguing entitled ‘Effect of war on civil and social life (including children and fuel)’. There are 6 posters in total but this one in particular jumped out at me, due to its design and colour scheme.  Then I noticed it is the only one with a named artist, Reginald Mount.  There is more information about Reginald Mount here, part of a National Archives online exhibition – ‘The Art of War’.

Poster from NUWT Collection, ref UWT/D/268/1 Image (c) Crown copyright. Image may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.

Reginald Mount had worked in the advertising industry in the 1930s as a designer and joined the Ministry of Information at the outbreak of the Second World War.  The National Archives page shows many more posters designed by Reginald Mount, the one of ‘five male profiles’ with the reference, as noted by the National Archives, to Soviet designed posters of the time, is particularly interesting.  I also love this poster he designed for The Ladykillers.

There is also another series of posters along the same lines – each one with a different coloured border and a different image but all part of the ‘Watch Your Meter’ campaign.  None of the other ones (like this image below) have artists named on the posters though.

Poster from NUWT Collection, ref UWT/D/268/1 Image (c) Crown copyright. Image may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education.

What happened next?

What happened next? That is a question which comes up a lot when cataloguing and it can be so frustrating not to know.  What I mean is when you’re cataloguing a file of correspondence you might find a run of 4 or 5 letters about a subject then nothing, no conclusion, no neat summary of the chain of events.  In the case of this set of correspondence I really hope with all my heart that things worked out with a ‘happy ever after’. 

The correspondence starts with a typed copy of a letter dates 12th June 1939.  The letter is from a Professor from Budweis, in the Czech Republic.  I imagine anyone reading this may begin to get an inkling as to the nature of the content of the letter now.  He writes to the NUWT with a request for help for his 15-year-old daughter.  After praising his daughter’s studios nature and her talent for languages he explains that given the current situation for Jewish people in the Czech Republic he wants to send his daughter to England to live in safety and pursue her studies.  The number of children being put forward at the British Committee for Children in Prague is so great that he fears they will not be able to help him.  His request to the NUWT is to see if they know a family who would be willing to take her in.

Then follows correspondence between Ethel Froud (General Secretary of the NUWT) and an NUWT member, presumably a Headteacher, from a school in London.  In the final letter dated 21st July 1939 Ethel Froud explains the situation and that all that is required is an initial £50 guarantee and then she hopes one of the Refugee Committeess could help bring the girl over.  She is looking for a school who would help in finding a home for the girl with a British family.  The NUWT Central Council have considered the matter and will ask the Board of Management of the Mutual Aid Fund if they would guarantee the £50.  Then, nothing.  This is it, the end of the correspondence.  What happened? Did they find a school? Did they find a family who would take her in?  Did the Professor find anyone to help him? I know this is only one case out of a heartbreaking number but I would so love to know the outcome, or maybe I wouldn’t.  For now though, I’m just going to hope that the outcome was a happy one, as the letter from Ethel Froud sounds encouraged and hopeful that they would find the money and a family to look after the girl.