News from the PHC Archive: Part One

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A short extract from the 1940 edition of the PHC Magazine

Each week we will be delving into the PHC archives and sharing our discoveries with you. First up is this extract from the 1940 edition of the school magazine...

A year of war has gone since I wrote the last foreword for our magazine. Very nearly we felt there ought not to be a magazine this year, but at time when every bond of friendship and fellowship remembered, every spiritual tie strengthen, every dear loyalty kept more closely to us helps us through the hours of strain and tension and uncertainty, it is worth gathering together this little handful of news, of things and of people, these reminders of a life we all shared at an important time in our development. So here comes the 1940 copy of the magazine, slighter than usual in volume, but full of the hope and cheerfulness and initiative which we are proud to associate with P.H.C.

Our life at Temple Dinsley has been singularly peaceful and unchanged. The black-out in the winter months meant a shuffling of lessons and games and meal times, and perhaps a greater degree of sleepiness than usual by the last lesson in the evening in rooms with carefully shrouded windows, but we had no big change, as were never evacuated nor called on to receive evacuees. Only one air-raid warning came our way, and our midnight visit to the cellars was a pleasurable excitement.  There have been strange and feverish activities - recorded elsewhere - but they too have been stimulating and interesting. We have been spared personal lost so far, and the terrible side of war has been mercifully hidden from us. I hope that we shall remember this year of continued peace and beauty as a cause of deep gratitude and a source of strength in any trials we may yet be called upon to bear. Twice recently I have heard of people to whom the war has bought great strain and anxiety and trouble saying that one result has been to heighten their enjoyment of the lovely little things of life they had always taken for granted - they have used the shadows as the great artists did, to bring out the beauty and significance of some detail of form or colour or composition which otherwise would have been overlooked as commonplace, and which now we rejoice in, and remember.

For many of the Old Girls I know the war has meant great changes: you are doing work very differently from what you had planned. Your homes have been broken up in many cases, or at least moved to different localities. Great and difficult decisions have had to be made, partings hard to be endured, days and nights of great anxiety to be lived through somehow. We who remain in the shelter of an accustomed life and routine can only watch you with love and sympathy, welcome every scrap of news about you, rejoice in your occasions of happiness, grieve for you when we know you are struggling along under a burden of sorrow or anxiety, - but always with confidence that neither happiness nor sorrow, the light and shade of life, will blind you to the existence of the greater picture of which they are only part, nor make you deaf to the call for selfless service which comes to all of us at this time, whatever our private circumstances. "Fortis qui se vincit" - no mean ideal for us in this great hour of the world's need.

P.H.C and the War

Compared with many other schools, the war has made singularly little change in our outward lives here: we were left in our own buildings, well out of sight and sound of most of war's alarms. But no one can be quite untouched, and we have our experiences to record too.

First, there was a considerable change of personnel - twenty-five new girls, as many of our girls who were overseas had to remain there, and some others also did not return. Then, everyone came up to sleep at the main house, the staff giving up their rooms there, and going to the Dower House. This enabled all the girls to get down to the cellars without going into the open, if air-raids threatened. The cellars themselves were whitewashed, lighted, provisioned, and extra exits were made, more recently they have been floored with wood and heated. We had day and night practices for getting there, and it has all worked very well on the occasions we have thought it wise to go down.

The dormitories have been more crowded, and black-out regulations made both them and the form rooms stuffier than we like, but as the winter was very cold, it was not as unendurable as it might have been. The time-table was changed to two lessons after lunch, then games, and only two evening periods - an arrangement which most people preferred - except those who found it hard to bright and intellectual on top of a substantial mid-day meal! Evening preparation was done in the Library, as the outside class rooms had too many windows to black out - as it was, without them, we had 279 windows and 9 skylights to cope with.

Some little boys from Finsbury were evacuated to our village, and to help their foster-mothers, we lent them our studio for a school, which could then be held simultaneously with the village one, enabling both sets of children to have meals at the same time. We were lucky in having very nice children sent here; they found it hard to resist the autumn orchards, but the boundless wealth of conkers presently diverted their interests to a more harmless channel, and we have found them friendly, proud of their association with us, and interested in all our activities. Miss Bown took them for signing, for gymnastics and games, and for scouting, gained their wholehearted devotion - as she deserves to do, since she has given up her weekly free afternoon to them all through the year.

Marshall has become our own Air-Raid Warden, and Moran and Kimber have joined the Home Guards, while Lambert was to have been the driver of the village ambulance (our school car) if necessary. The village First-Aid room was set up in the Dower House. So far none of these precautions have had to be called into use, nor the various hoses and stirrup pumps which put in an appearance.

After the collapse of France, when danger threatened more directly, "Hitler Hall" was constructed - an old chalk pit, which Marshall and his assistants cleared, and roofed over. Under Mr. Welch's directions the necessary supports were strategically placed, and a partition wall was built, Kimber put in electric light, and the place is now capable of taking all the school into its splinter-proof recesses if it became necessary, e.g through fire, to leave the cellars when a raid was still in progress.

The war changed the date of the School Certificate examinations to the end of the Summer term, instead of June, so this year's candidates did not get the usual three weeks of relaxation afterwards, nor their results before they were home. Possibilities of traffic disorganisation sent a good many girls home early, and the whole school broke up a week before it was originally intended. A good many people could not go home because of dangerous conditions then, but the account of their summer holidays is given elsewhere.

Some of our usual activities had to be abandoned this year - we had no guide camp of our own or of the Vauxhall Guides, nor could we invite our usual charabanc-load of people from the Clarence Club. But we got in the Garden-party, on a simpler scale than usual, and as it coincided with half-term week-end, a good many Old Girls were able to stay on over-night, and reminisce in the study till exceedingly late! This has led to the idea of inviting any other Old Girls who can manage it and would like a day or two of country quiet to visit us at the half-term week-end, when we can offer beds. I hope a few of you will be able to avail yourselves of such opportunities, the dates of which we are publishing. 

Photograph of front cover of PHC magazine

Photo of the inside of school magazine from 1940

photo of inside of PHC magazine from 1940

photo of inside of PHC magazine from 1940

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News from the PHC Archive: Part Two


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