Military Requisitions and Accidental Death – Wartime in the school log books 1939 – 1952

This week’s blog post for the Year of Young People 2018 falls on the anniversary of D Day and deals with the evidence of life for children in wartime as seen in the school log books.

The outbreak of the Second World War and the contingencies that were made on the home front had a very great impact on some schools. Some schools took in evacuees and this swelled the school roll and meant that some special measures had to be introduced.

The log of Port of Menteith Primary School shows evacuees arriving from the ‘Glasgow Scheme’ on 2nd September 1939, the day before war was officially declared. They could not attend the school initially as they were judged to be in a ‘verminous condition’ and some time was spent removing various parasites by bathing the children. By the 19th of September, half of the evacuees are described as still being ‘unfit to attend school’. We can only assume that they were all sorted out by the time the school reopened after the October holiday.

Provisions were also being made at this time to make sure that the school complied with blackout regulations in the winter months with workmen sorting out the stove and fitting blackout blinds to the windows.

On 6th August 1940, Port of Menteith Primary School was requisitioned by the army and all of the teachers and pupils had to move out. They moved into the ‘Schoolhouse’, presumably the Head Teacher’s house, and teaching took place on a shift basis with the arrangement being given in detail in the log book.

Interestingly, there is a letter glued in to the log book dated 6th September 1949 to the current Head Teacher from the previous one who had been in post during the war about the loss of a set of animal horns that used to hang on the school wall. It would appear that ‘after the military occupation of school I never saw the ‘Horns’ again…’

Poor June McNab, a pupil at Callander Primary School became a casualty of war when she was hit by an army lorry while trying to cross the road in the town in January 1944. The Head Teacher attended her funeral and arranged for flowers to be sent in the name of the pupils and staff of the school. After this, life had to go on as normal with the children’s gas masks being inspected the day after June’s funeral. During the Second World War, all children had to carry their gas masks everywhere and school was the best place to have them checked.

At the end of the war, schools celebrated VE or Victory in Europe day in May 1945 with two days of holiday. This log is from Ruskie Primary School in Perthshire.

Troops returning home was the occasion for a half-day holiday in 1952. The pupils of Raploch Primary School were given a half day off to celebrate the return of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from Korea. It is likely that some of the children would have been welcoming their fathers back from abroad on this day.