Kingham Hill in 1945, memories of VE Day

We asked some of our Hillians for their recollections of VE Day and what life was like on the Hill during that time. They were kind enough to share their stories from 75 years ago.

To read more of what life was like at Kingham Hill during that time, the School magazine resumed printing in December, 1945.   A copy is available here:  Kingham_Hill_School_Magazine_-_December_1945.pdf

Ron Hoskins (1943-1945, Durham House)

I am unsure of being referred to as an alumnus of the School as I was there very much by chance, through very gratefully so.  I was born in Tottenham, North London, in 1931.  In 1943, the bombing by the Germans was so severe that my parents decided to send me and my two younger brothers to safety as evacuees.

Along with many other children, we were packed onto a train at Paddington, our names on a parcel tag tied to our lapel, with a gas mask box strapped over our shoulder.  We said our goodbyes and off the train went.

We finally stopped at Kingham Junction and a large group of us were taken to the Village Hall.  Looking back on that day it was rather like a cattle market where adults looked us over and chose the child they would take to their home.  I had strict orders from my parents to look after my two brothers,  so when one of them was chosen, I stepped in to say we must stay together.  It seemed that no one would take the three of us.  

Finally someone from the school came forward and took the three of us (and a boy whose surname was Morgan), back to the school.   We were then split up due to our ages.  My brothers Kenneth and Douglas went to Plymouth House; and Morgan and I went to Durham House.   There were insufficient beds for us both so I spent all of my days at Durham, but slept in the house across the playing field (Severn) which was the home of Mr and Mrs Kinnehan who were Trustees.  In those days the house next door (Greenwich) was the infirmary.

Supper was served in Durham House.  Food was on ration during the war but bread was baked at school.  One evening we were given a thick chunk of fresh bread and a tablespoon of honey.  A master from Sheffield House was on duty that evening ensuring that we didn't throw uneaten bread at each other.  Some boys were not eating their honey, so I helped myself to it.  The master saw this and started telling me about his bees which he kept near Sheffield House and how the honey I was enjoying came from them.  He asked if I wished to help tend them with him. I joined him and the other older lads every week and this gave me the start of an interesting hobby that I have made my life-times work, 75 years on now.

Leo Smith (1943-1950, Plymouth, Durham and Clyde)

I remember being told that the war had ended at about 9 pm in Durham House.   We had a celebration later and I remember dressing up as a Knight of the Bath.   The Americans were stationed at Daylesford House for a few years.  They gave us oranges..and if we saw an American we would say 'Got any gum, Chum?' and they would give us chewing gum.     

Along the road from KHS to Kingham, there were banks of empty shells on the road, for use just in case.   Kingham was a peaceful place to be during the war.  We had some boys who were evacuees.  The Oak Hill students were evacuated from London to live at Kingham earlier in the 1940s,  before I arrived.

(Daylesford House was previously home to the Founder of KHS - Charles Baring Young).

Stan Clavell (1941-1946, Clyde and Bradford)

In what seemed to be the very long hot summer months of the war years, scarcely a day went past without the drone of the engines from Anson, Oxford and Harvard trainers from overhead.  This was to come to a peak when D-Day brought wave upon wave of Dakotas and others towing their full complement of troops carrying gliders in their special white bar markings.   VE Day in Clyde House with 'Ali' Barber meant decking out the outside of the house in bunting and climbing onto the roof to fix flags to the outer apex of the gables, and a bonfire night.  We were somewhat shut off from the war, except for ACF parades and training.  The full impact came when some of us passed through the blitzed areas when going home for the holidays and when we received the sometimes sad news of Old Boys announced at Assembly.   At holiday time we were sometimes able to purchase wild rabbits from the farm on the Kingham road to take home to supplement the wartime rations - at 6 old pence each -  and before myomatosis had been invented.

1942 Kingham Hill CCF

Bruce Arnold (1944-1954, Plymouth Bradford and Norwich)

I would love to tell you about 'Blackout Nights,' the dark-blue blinds, the terrible noise of the bombers leaving south-eastward to Europe in waves, their engines roaring as they passed over.  When the lights were off, Miss Blackwell, Miss Hargreaves and Miss Jones used to take them down so we could see the bombers' lights - they seemed very low and noisy.  It brought the war closer.  The night flight hit the Normandy coast before dawn and time and again it was explained to us.   We thought war was such fun!

The Americans occupied Daylesford House.  In the daytime we went over to cadge sweets or cigarettes.  They came to the school to visit.  They generously distributed chewing gum.  We got to know the types of aircraft, the weight of the bombs and when they hoped to go home.  They used to flirt with the girls working in the school and of course we teased them.

We came to know a lot about American vehicles, guns, and in those days, after the arrival of huge numbers of American soldiers, we must have realised that war was coming to an end.

I came to Kingham in February 1944. I had been at a school in London and not with my brothers from September. We got a great education, though a lot of the teaching was about the war. 

Daylesford House in the late 1930s

Bill Mayes (1945-1950, Sheffield)

VE Day has a very special memory for me.  At the age of 12 it marked my arrival at Kingham Hill.  The celebration bonfire ashes were still glowing at Sheffield House;  it seemed to coincide with half-term, so quite a number of the boys were on various trips to Chippy, etc.  I think each house had made its own bonfire and were celebrating in different ways.  

Brian Kelly, 1948-1953

I was not old enough to be present at Kingham on VE Day.  My family lived in Shedfield, a small village between Fareham and Botley.  On May 8, 1945 my younger sister and I were walking to the village school, about a mile from our home, when the local postman pulled up to ask where we were going.  'To school!' I said.  He replied "No, you are not.  The war is over and the school is closed.  Hop in".   He gave us a lift home.