Starting school in 1939

I started to attend Ditchling Road School in 1939 just before the outbreak of World War Two. I went through Infants, Juniors and Boys Seniors sections, until the school closed in about 1947. We were then transferred to York Place, Intermediate School (then to change it’s name to Fawcett School).

Special air raid shelters

The war years were etched into one’s memory, especially the ‘air-raids’ the first we heard was the sirens wailing the first warning. That was bad enough, but when the ‘pips’ sounded, this filled us all with fear, as it meant an imminent attack by enemy aircraft. While these warnings were being sounded we were all herded into the special air raid shelters that had been built beneath the school playgrounds.

A target for the bombers

On the opposite side of Ditchling Road was the old Brighton Council Incinerator, where all the town’s rubbish was burnt. The very tall chimney and associated warehouses looked like a factory and a target for the enemy bombers. The bombers were on occasions accompanied by fighter aircraft that flew low, machine-gunning the area and on one occasion hitting the school playground, fortunately nobody was hurt.

Saw the bomber’s face

Also I can remember getting caught out in the Infants playground and looking up at one of these low flying fighters and seeing the pilot’s face. All the windows around the school were taped on the inside with white adhesive crosses so as to lessen the risk of glass being blown into the classrooms following a bomb exploding.

More pleasant memories

A more pleasant memory was having a small garden plot on the south side within the boundary rails of the school, where my life long love of gardening & the growing of vegetables was born. A few names of teachers remain in ones memory – Miss Haffenden, Headmistress of Infants School. Miss Blackman, whom I adored and I was heartbroken when she left to go to Canada.

A tough experience

The Senior School was a tough experience; one never forgets being disciplined for a misdemeanour with the 5-tailed leather strap administered by various members of staff. In woodwork for instance, for those misbehaving or not paying attention, an accurately aimed piece of wood was thrown with great speed at the culprit! So much for today’s health and safety rules!

Teaching of the three Rs

But the strict, yet high technical standard of woodwork teaching, gave me a love to work with wood for the rest of my life. Generally, the teaching of the 3 R’s gave us an adequate education to face what ever the future held for us.

‘Bundles’ in the playground

Bare fist fights (bundles) in the seniors playground caused great excitement, where everyone gathered around in a circle encouraging whomever they supported. Not that I got involved in too many fights, but I can remember on one occasion getting involved in a fist fight with Vic Taylor, goodness knows what it was about, because we were the best of pals afterwards. I have never seen Vic since our school days but our fight lives in my memory!

A wealth of memories

So my time at Ditchling Road ended when the school was shut and a chapter in my life closed and  supposedly forgotten for 60 years but memories were reawaken reading the old school’s website section. Down’s School maybe its current name, but within the flint walls that surround the school is locked a wealth of memories, many still to be told.


Comments about this page

  • Nice to know there are still some of us around Peter. It brings back many memories.

    By John Wall (29/05/2010)
  • I went to Ditchling Road now the Downs School from 1941 until 1947. I remember the siren and the dreaded pips. Children were all herded down to the shelters that were under the playgrounds. Remember the silver strips of paper that were dropped and collected. I think they were to stop communication between planes. Miss Haffenden was my first teacher. I still have my class two sums book with the tens and units additions- lots of ticks and crosses. I also have my six year old writing book complete with ships and planes as doodles. In the junior school what about the icy slides that went right across the playground in winter. I remember playing conkers and flippsies (cigarette cards) and alleys (marbles) Nobody was ever bored-always found something to do and play. There was no school for the day when the toilet cistern froze and toilets could not be flushed. School milk was icy cold and we made to drink it (I did not like milk when I was a youngster). Taking an empty jar to school and getting it filled up with drinking chocolate powder which had been donated I think from Canada. It was mixed with water and was supposed to have been a nutricious drink. Mrs Wymark was ‘cooking and how to keep a house clean’ teacher. MrWebb and of course the teacher who I hated Mr Dibbens (used to shake and had a terrible temper). I have great memories of Ditchling Road School. Wonder if anyone remembers me.

    By Jennifer Goddard nee Norrell (19/06/2010)

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