Pupils evacuated at Bluebell Railway

Burgess Hill School for Girls World War II Day SUS-141206-105238001
Burgess Hill School for Girls World War II Day SUS-141206-105238001

Year 6 pupils at Burgess Hill School for Girls were evacuated on a steam train at the Bluebell Railway as part of their World War II Day on Thursday June 5.

The girls attended school, dressed in 1940s clothes with new names, ration books and identity cards. They were taken to the Bluebell Railway at Sheffield Park Station for a tour, before boarding one of the steam trains to East Grinstead. On the train the girls sang wartime songs and shared the contents of their suitcases.

Upon arrival at East Grinstead, there was an Identity Card inspection and the girls were able to board the steam engine and take a look at how the coal is burned.

The train was re-boarded for their journey to Horsted Keynes. Once they had arrived at the Station, a mock billeting exercise was carried out where a Billeting Officer issued the children to their ‘new families’. Following this the girls had to take shelter in the nearby subway as an air-raid siren was sounded. The day concluded with the girls writing postcards home, as young evacuees would have done at the time. There was much excitement as the crew from Downton Abbey were setting up for a day of filming.

The Bluebell Railway staff made the experience as true to life as possible, and were aided by members of the Burgess Hill Drama Club.

Deputy Head of the Junior School, Mrs Pearson, commented, “The world in which our Year 6 girls go on to work will, undoubtedly, be quite different from the one in which we have worked ourselves. Our aim at Burgess Hill School for Girls is to prepare our girls for the future which lies ahead - the one which is not yet known. Providing girls with opportunities to develop: the ability to work in a team, communicate effectively, manage one’s time, think creatively, use their initiative and be happy! In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything one has learned in school.’”

Report and pictures contributed by Burgess Hill School for Girls.