Final reunion for pre-war Aylsham schoolboys

A class of Norfolk boys who survived the second world war to meet again in later life will revisit their old school when they hold one last reunion next month.

The 'Barber Boys' went their separate ways after leaving Aylsham Boys' School in the late 1930s. Many were called up to serve in the forces in Britain's hour of need.

Twenty years ago, Bill Pask, armed with an old school photo, tracked each of them down and organised the first of what became annual reunions. Now, Mr Pask is bringing as many as poss- ible together for a swan-song gathering in Aylsham on April 9. 'I'm 87, and we're all in our mid- to late-80s; I think it's time to call it a day,' he said.

The reunions began after a chance meeting in 1990 when former pupil John Pumphrey bumped into old school pal Gordon Barber, son of former schoolmaster John Barber.

Word of this spread, and, when Mr Pask heard, he fished out an old picture of Mr Barber's pupils taken when they were 12 or 13 years old and began tracing them. Through relatives still living locally, Mr Pask discovered that all 20 pictured, plus 11 older boys, were still alive.

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'Several of them married girls they met when they were in the forces and had settled where they were stationed so they were spread about a bit: Nott-ingham, Portsmouth, Bolton, Lanc-ashire, and Suffolk,' he said. Some were prisoners of the Japanese.

The first reunion brought together old boys and their wives, some of whom went to the girls' school at Aylsham. Both are now part of St Michael's Nursery and Infant School.

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Since then, 14 of the 31 Barber Boys have died and others have become too frail to travel. 'We will remember all of them when we meet,' said Mr Pask, of Mill Road, Aylsham. 'It brings a lump to your throat when you look back: we were all pals together.

'It was a good, family atmosphere. Mr Barber was appreciated very much: he called a spade a spade. If you chatted to somebody, you'd find a piece of chalk flying past your earhole!'

Mr Pask left school at 14 and served with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in north Africa and Italy before returning to his hairdressing job at Aylsham.

He and his wife Bessie later took over Oulton shop and post office from Mr Pask's parents.

The final reunion will begin with a tour of the school followed by lunch at Greens Freehouse at Aylsham.

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