Children from Bentham Community Primary School have been learning what it might have been like to be part of the mass evacuations of the Second World War.
It's all thanks to National Lottery players. The evacuations saw 3.5 million civilians relocated to rural areas thought to be less at risk of bombing.
Operation Pied Piper began on 1 September 1939. In the first three days, 1.5 million people were evacuated, including 827,000 children of school age, many of whom were parted from their parents.
Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) re-enacted some of the typical scenes with a group of 50 youngsters from the school who were ‘evacuated’ by train to Hellifield, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
Complete with ration books, identity cards, gas masks and 1930s-40s style clothing, the children sang ‘Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye’, before the siren sounded and the ‘evacuation’ drill began.
Miss Thwaite, Teacher at Bentham CP School, said: “Over the autumn term we have been learning about World War II and its effects, particularly on children. It’s been fantastic to work with YDMT to organise this day for the children to gain first-hand experience of what it might have been like to be evacuated.
"There was a real buzz of excitement about the day and the children have loved being involved in all the preparations at school. It’s been great to see them embrace the day, get into character and gain an enriched learning experience.”
The youngsters learnt that finding new homes could have often been traumatic for the young evacuees and discovered that adapting to war-time life in the Yorkshire Dales countryside may have been difficult for many.
Anthea Hanson, Schools Out Education Officer at YDMT, organised and delivered the event. She said: “The aim was to give the pupils from Bentham CP School a little taste of what the war would have meant for children their age who found themselves relocated to the Yorkshire Dales in the Second World War. Before catching the train back home to Bentham, we asked the children to reflect on what they had learnt and to write a postcard home to their parents – a little memento of their experience.”
Ten-year-old Tom from High Bentham is the school’s Head Boy. He said: “If this was happening for real I’d feel nervous, sad and excited. It’s really good that you made it happen today so that we could all experience it.”
The activity was part of the Schools Out project, which aims to deliver curriculum-linked outdoor activity and engagement days for primary schools in the Ingleborough area.
It’s part of Stories in Stone, a four-year programme of community, conservation and heritage projects developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, which is led by YDMT and mainly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.