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The War Years: 1939-1945

Chrisoulla Oratis
The war years brought new challenges for the school. On one level there was the school’s contribution to the war effort, both practical and economic. The school had in 1938 already offered to take English children (evacuees) in case of war. In September 1939, older pupils helped with the evacuation in Haslemere and the school itself took two young Greek-Cypriot evacuees, Chrisoulla and Johnie Oratis. In July 1940 the school took in seventeen evacuees from Bunce Court.

Johnie Oratis

Other immediate effects of the war brought new problems for the school. Blackout curtains had to be provided for all the rooms in the main house and out buildings, which amounted to a considerable number of windows. At the governors meeting in December, 1939, Dr. Lion reported:

‘Children and staff soon got used to slight alterations. After some experiments we can now manage quite well with all the children in the house and half-dim passages and staircases. A new job has been added to the long job list, hanging up and taking off curtains. Every night a curtain patrol checks up all the windows of the house, huts and bungalow’.

Gas masks were issued to every child and adult and everybody was issued with ration cards which were given up to the school’s secretary upon arrival at the school after each holiday break. At first there was little change in the food supply. Dr Lion reports: ‘The children only noticed the shortage of brown sugar’. “Digging for Victory” was as much a part of the school’s contribution to the war effort as it was for British nationals. The school’s farm and vegetable garden were cultivated in earnest to make the school self-sufficient. In 1939 the school was able to help the local community by sending surplus milk from their farm down to the Isolation Hospital.

The war impinged on everybody at the school. During the Blitz, there were air raid alarms almost every night for months; pupils and staff spent nearly every night in the cellars as the school lay directly under the flight path for both English and German planes.


Immediately after war was declared, the school experienced restrictions. Travel was limited to a five mile radius around the school. The school car was demobilised; the schools wireless sets were confiscated and everybody who had cameras had to give them up. Twenty-seven refugee pupils and staff from the school were examined at the Guildford Aliens’ Tribunal during the month of October 1939 and were place in category ‘C’. Upon passing the tribunals, these refugees were exempted from some restrictions and life at the school returned to relatively normal conditions, except that travel was still limited to a five mile radius and a curfew was placed upon all those residents over sixteen. Cameras were returned and the school was allowed to use the car. This changed again in April 1940, the end of the ‘phoney war’, with the invasion of Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries and France in early May, producing a sudden intensification of anti-alien feeling in Britain.

Kurt Holländer

Dieter Gaupp
Kurt and Dieter were interned in May 1940. Kurt was transferred to Canada on 4 July 1940 without Dr. Lion’s knowledge. He was killed in an accident not long after arriving in Canada.
In May 1940 four refugee boys and two refugee girls resident at Stoatley Rough School were interned under the general directive covering category ‘B’. Two boys and the two girls were sent to internment on the Isle of Man, one boy was sent to the Aliens’ camp ‘B’, York and the other boy to Huyton, Liverpool. These children were interned because they had only just turned sixteen and had not appeared before a tribunal to establish their loyalty to Britain. Two of the girls and two of the boys were released from internment camp and returned to the school at the end of July 1940.

Gibbet Cross
Much of the surrounding countryside became a prohibited area, when the RAF requisitioned and cordoned off areas of Hindhead Common and the Gibbet Hill with barbed wire. Gibbet Hill itself became an important RAF lookout containing radar, search-lights and anti-aircraft weapons.

Hindhead Heath


This photo was taken on the school farm in September, 1944, shortly after D-Day and the beginning of the V-1 flying bomb (Doodlebug) bombardment. It shows, left to right, Wolff Edelstein (with Blockbuster and Pete), Peter Schlichter (with puppy Franklin), Fred Drexler (in charge of the farm, with his setter Betty, mother of Franklin and Winston), Herbert Zwergfeld, also known as Beethoven (his hairstyle was 25 years ahead of the fashion) with puppy Winston, and Hans (John) Obermeyer, also known as Obo, with Doodlebug and Minny.

Miss Fearon (in 1958), governor of Stoatley Rough School since 1935 and Chairman of the board of governors from 1945. She was 82 by the time the school closed in 1960.

VE Day celebrations at Stoatley Rough School when Miss Fearon bought everybody ice-cream.

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