How Norwich school reopened just two days after terrifying Blitz bombing
- Credit: Archant
A wartime log book has revealed the remarkable story of how children at Norwich primary returned to lessons two days after German bombers destroyed their school.
St Mark’s Primary and Infants’ School on Hall Road was devastated during a Norwich fire-bombing raid on the night of June 26–27 in 1942.
Research by Norfolk Records Office has unearthed the tale of how the school got its pupils back learning amid the ruins in a temporary log book written at the time by its headmistress Amy Buckley.
She recalled working on school records on the night of the raid, describing how she “ran through the church yard just before the ‘all clear’ to see whether the school was safe, and found it a blazing inferno – nothing to be done”.
Amazingly she recounts how the school reopened two days later in a neighbouring building used as the church hall and a Women’s Voluntary Service clothing store.
Children were asked to come equipped with a pencil and a story book and accommodation was limited as the children were seated on long forms and Sunday school chairs.
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To ease pressures on numbers 40 older children transferred early to Lakenham Senior Girls and St Marks Senior Boys School.
These neighbouring schools also lent furniture, books, paper, pencils and crayons so that lessons could go ahead.
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On July 2 children began a temporary timetable:
- 9.00–9.40 Prayers and Scripture
- 9.45–10.45 Arithmetic/Physical training/Singing
- 10.45–11.00 Milk
- 11.00–11.45 Recreation
- 11.45–12.00 English
- 2.00–3.00 Handicraft (of some simple form)
- 3.00–3.30 Milk and recreation
- 3.30–4.00 Story or singing
Alex Atherton, the Norfolk Records Office research blogger who looked into the story behind the logbook, said: “As well as being cramped, the temporary school accommodation was not weatherproof as Buckley reports on July 17 that ‘the weather has been very wet…and it has been difficult to find dry places…since the roof was damaged by shrapnel in the air raid.”
She added: “The entry for July 24 also provides an interesting insight into how new records were created after existing ones were destroyed.
“The first comment is about weighing and measuring all the children and making new medical cards, followed by the news that the vicar has told her that the school’s managers can’t ‘recondition this old building’ and therefore the school will have to close.
“Most children were transferred to Lakenham Council Primary and Infants and one teacher went to work there as well.”
St Mark’s Primary was not the only school hit during the Luftwaffe's air raids on Norwich. Bracondale School and Larkman School had been left devastated in 1941.
Nelson Street, Heigham Street and St Augustine's all suffered damage in the Baedeker Raids in April 1942 while King Edward VII Grammar was struck during the same night as St Marks Primary.
However, despite the devastation to the primary school nearby St Marks Senior Boys School on Hall Road avoided serious damage.
The school later closed in the early 1950s and was used by Norfolk Social Services before being converted into eight new apartments in 2014.
Memorabilia found during the renovation included names mischievously carved into the rear brick wall, secret notes written in childish scrawl stuffed behind old timber panes.
Many of its pupils fought in the First and Second World Wars and there are plaques dedicated to some of them in St Mark's Church in Lakenham including Sidney James Day who was awarded the VC medal for his heroic actions in France in 1917.
Another John Grix was still a 15-year-old pupil at the school when he was awarded the British Empire Medal and met King George VI for his heroic exploits as a cycle messenger at the height of the Baedeker Raids which caused death and destruction on a terrifying scale.