CCHSG Magazines 1944-1954

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These magazines were produced in the nineteenth century and reflect the language and social attitudes of their time.  In rare instances, readers may find this offensive.


CCHSG Magazines 1944-1954

“In 1938 when the school magazine last appeared, the war had just begun – now the war has been won.  One generation has spent most of its school life under that shadow which is now lifted to our great thankfulness… School citizenship, like ordinary citizenship, means facing up to the difficulties and differences of the present and adjusting ourselves to them with good humour – this was wise advice in 1939 and is so still in 1945, but then it was easier to carry out than it is now.”

The 1944-45 edition of the school magazine, with the above foreword from Headteacher Miss King, resumed in much the same format as pre-war.  There was celebration as events such as the annual Sports Day resumed and an effort made to summarise the activities at the school over the war period.  However, as Miss King stated “…the picture of those six years given in a few lines is necessarily very incomplete.” 

“At the end of August 1939, the Staff were recalled to Colchester in order to help with evacuees who arrived shortly.  We helped with their reception and billeting in various ways…“   The Foreword to the 1944 magazine records that the school itself, once reopened, welcomed several individual evacuees and “two large groups from Harwich and Clacton who came to us temporarily”.

“A certain number of our girls left Colchester for other parts of the England and we could not begin School until the trenches were ready.  When the first one was finished at Grey Friars we were able to begin work with our older girls and some of the Sixth Form from the Grammar School” (now CRGS). The “trenches” referred to were air raid shelters, which were used periodically, “sometimes several times in one day”.  As Miss King recalls, a bomb did fall on Castle Park one Friday evening, blowing out all the windows at the back of Grey Friars, (1944, p2).  In 1940 the school was closed as all children in the Colchester Borough were evacuated.  Two of the staff moved with a party of students to Kettering High School and another group of students and staff relocated to Burton-on Trent. 

The creative writing submissions for this edition, perhaps not surprisingly, have far more topical themes than in previous magazines.  V E Day was recalled twice in poem form (1944, p23) alongside an interesting creative piece entitled “Diary of a schoolgirl in the year 2045” but there is no record of how the official ending of the war was celebrated by the school. The poem “A Deserted Place” (1944, p26) describes the ruins of a city.  The wartime rationing of food, which continued long after the ending of hostilities, receives a creative take in P. Oxley’s “A wartime Dream of a Post-war Feast” (1944, p25) and also in the 1945 “Thoughts on a Lemon” (with apologies to Robert Browning)” (p32). A forward-looking piece of creative writing explored the potential uses of the new “substances invented by chemists to replace the more traditional materials” – in a piece entitled “Plastics” (1945, p22).

Much of what we know of the early history of the Grey Friars building originates from the published entries for a school competition, instigated by staff, in the magazine of 1946-47 (p26 & 27). Recorded, without much comment, in the Magazine of 1950 is the excavation in the orchard of North Hill during which parts of the Roman Wall were discovered (1950, p4).

Youth Service Group

Formed at the beginning of the war, this school society aimed “to assist the war effort in as many ways as possible.”  One prominent activity was run by the “Salvage Department” which collected “rose hips, jam jars, milk bottle tops, old felt hats, used films for Guy’s Hospital, foreign coins, lavender for the Church Army, electric light bulbs, acorns for pigs, horse-chestnuts for glucose, used postage stamps, cotton reels, silver paper, toothpaste tubes and broken gramophone records” (1944 p6). They also grew vegetables and flowers that were sent to the Military Hospital and collected second hand clothing for the French Resistance. The society had a “Correspondence Department”, with girls writing to “Russians, French, South Africans, West Indians, Canadians and New Zealanders.”  Pen-friends continued to be very popular long after the closing of the Youth Service Group, and some of the girls were able to bring pen-friends from abroad to visit the school (1947, p8).

During WW2 CCHSG “adopted” HMS Greenfly, a 440 ton civilian trawler with a crew of 30, which had been commissioned by the navy for anti-submarine duty. Throughout the duration of the war the girls supported the crew with gifts such as fruit and vegetables, magazines, clothing, books, cakes and anything else that might make life more bearable. The 1943-44 magazine reports that “the crew were trying to form a sextet and a White Elephant sale was organised in the autumn term to raise money for this. The result was £5 with which one of the crew managed to buy a trumpet.” The 1944 magazine contains the letter of farewell and thanks to the school from Lieutenant Commander Douglas Orr, the Captain of the HMS Greenfly. He exhorts the students to interest themselves in foreign affairs and politics so that they can play a full role as the “citizenesses of tomorrow.”

The Youth Service Group continued some of its activities for several years after the war.  In 1945, while the Gardening and Salvage Departments had ended “girls are, however, still knitting for the China Department.  Red wool has been received for making men’s jumpers” (1945, p13). In the same year over 3,800 books and magazines were collected by the school for hospitals and the ATS.

Dutch, French and German Links

The Dutch Department of the CCHSG Youth Service Group was particularly active, as there were close links with the Netherlands and groups of Dutch children visited Colchester.  A group attended Grey Friars, “taking part in English, Games and Art lessons”.  Later some 50 Dutch children were entertained to a party at CCHSG.  “Many girls gave up some of their precious orange ration so that each Dutch child might have an orange.”  In August 1946, as the school Magazine recalls, a group of “PT Organisers, Youth leaders, Youth Organisers and Teachers” enjoyed a trip to Holland as guest of the Netherlands Government to learn to play the national game of “Korfbal” at Zeist, near Utrecht.  In August 1947 a group of young people from Colchester District visited Zwolle, travelling on the SS Arnham and being hosted by Dutch families.  “We found some of their habits rather disconcerting.  The most alarming of these was their habit of eating several courses off the same plate.” (1947, p16).

In 1945 CCHSG students took part in the first of a number of French Easter Schools held initially at Earls Colne, hosting, alongside other schools, around 90 students from Paris.  There were lessons in the morning, tennis and cricket in the afternoon and expeditions to Cambridge, Ely, Newmarket and London.  The return exchange to Paris took place annually during the summer holidays. In 1947 as recalled in the magazine for that year, students were staying with “fairly well-to-do families, who could afford to supplement their meagre rations with the help of the black market” (p21). 

In 1950 a German exchange visit was arranged with a school at Leverkusen, near Cologne. As usual, it was the meals which elicit most comment.  “The fear that was uppermost in our minds was that we should have to live on uncooked bacon and black bread.  However we soon became accustomed to eating these things and even enjoyed such dishes as prunes with potatoes!” (p10) In 1952 there was a further expedition to Germany recorded, during which the group visited the Federal German Parliament at Bonn (p12).

School Calendar

Some of the 1945-1951 editions of the magazines have a helpful index and calendar for the school year, which records for each term a range of School Society activities, visits to theatre, ballet and cinema, talks and lectures by visiting speakers and concerts. Families and friends once again visited the school on Sports Day and hockey, netball and tennis dominate the inter school sports in this period. An Inter School Rounders competition was established in 1952. In 1948 a film about tennis was to be shown in school and “many of us were surprised when we realised that it was to be a “talkie”. The 1948 edition features an article by past student Frances Cockburn ARPS on “The production of a Motion Picture”, written at the behest of Miss King (pp34 & 35). Frances Cockburn worked for the Film and Television Division of the Central Office of Information (COI), later becoming its Head.

One particularly notable visitor, on March 29, 1946, was poet Walter de La Mare. Topics for lectures could be wide ranging.  In 1946-7 these included “Anglo-French Relationships”, “Wool and Sheep Rearing”, “Nursing”, “Aid to Greece”, “Palestine” and “Coal-Gas”.  A member of the “Headmistresses’ Employment Committee”, visited the school annually to lecture on “Careers” dividing these into “professional, commercial, social, scientific and those for people with artistic abilities” (1946, p16).

By 1953, with the school growing larger, a range of new school societies were operating, their activities recorded in the magazine.  The Dramatic Society was very active, producing several plays a year, a new Historical Society organised visits to local places of interest and a new Natural History Society, with a membership of 113 organised trips to museums, visiting speakers and film presentations.

The school calendars for these years also record the visits to London, to galleries such as the Royal Academy and National Gallery and to the theatre, which took place several times a year.  In 1948 a group visited the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park to see “Much Ado About Nothing”, “one of the plays set for Higher Certificate this year.”  In 1952 students saw John Gielgud in “Much Ado about Nothing” at the Phoenix Theatre.  Lunch and tea was often taken as in 1946, at the YWCA in Great Russell Street where the group was “very hospitably received” (p20). 

Trips to London often also included, for at least part of the group, tours with the local MP of the Houses of Parliament.  The school also hosted a Party Political Forum in February 1950, with Colchester’s three main parliamentary candidates explaining to older students the basic principles of their respective Socialist, Conservative and Liberal platforms (p9).  In 1952 the two contestants for the Colchester seat visited CCHSG to outline their respective positions, with a Mr Alport “presenting the “party line in clear and plausible terms and delivered with all the skill of a professional politician, it almost sounded convincing” (1952, p15).

The study of Geography was supplemented with field trips such as that to the Cotswolds in Easter 1950.  Students undertook Land Utilization and Farm Surveys, visited the Roma Villa at Chedworth and the Stroud woollen factory (p13). In 1946 there was a residential visit by the Sixth Form to the Youth Hostel at Thaxted over Easter and the Upper Sixth also spent a week Youth Hostelling in Derbyshire. 

During the autumn of 1945 the first formal school orchestra and choirs were formed. These progressed quickly with the orchestra entering the Chelmsford Festival of Music a year later, gaining second places in the elementary and advanced violin classes. The choir entered the Inter-School Festival and worked jointly with CRGS on a production of Bach’s “Peasant Cantata”. In the Spring term of 1947, an interform choral competition was first held.  A Music Club was founded in 1953 to “promote a love of music and to interest those who wish to know more about this art.”  Alongside this a Recorder Society started to run, giving regular concerts.

The 1944 contribution from the Grey Friars Library notes that one of the most popular books “A swish of the Curtain” was written by past student Pamela Brown, who first had the opportunity to see her work in print in the school magazine.  Old Girl Pauline Clarke also donated a copies of her books “The Pekinese Princess”, “The White Elephant” and “The Great Can”, to the school library. Until 1943 she studied English at Somerville College, Oxford, then worked as a journalist and wrote for children’s magazines. The importance of the school Library, finally in 1949 given a dedicated room at North Hill, is emphasised by Miss King in the Foreword to the 1949-50 edition.  “The intelligent use of books should develop self-reliance and initiative which are in danger of being undermined and destroyed be the present passion for uniformity and mass-production… Rightly used our two Libraries should be a means whereby girls can become thinking individuals, and also a powerful influence in helping us to achieve our School Motto – “Wisdom giveth Life”.  By 1950 the North Hill Library had some 1,600 books, a new catalogue and reclassification under the “Cheltenham Ladies’ College Scheme.”  Miss King’s speech at the distribution of certificates later in the year concluded: “the aim of education should be to stimulate the mind, to show judgement and to appreciate goodness, truth and beauty, (1949, p6).”

An Inter-schools Discussion Group, organised between 5 local grammar schools held meetings three times a term during the early 1950s.  “Subjects discussed have ranged from the American Presidential elections and germ warfare to feminine hair styles and Valentine cards, and though few speakers possess the gift of keeping to the point for more than half a minute, everything has been discussed with the utmost enthusiasm and good humour.” Refreshments consisted of “tea, bread and margarine and aniseed balls…” (1953, p28).

Barnardo Helpers’ League

Throughout the war the school continued its support of Dr Barnardo’s Homes and the 1944 edition of the magazine records that over £184 had been collected that year alone; a substantial amount at the time.  A home for babies at Farm Hill, Kelvedon became a particular focus for support, with girls visiting to donate toys, and a double pram being purchased. In 1946 student volunteers stayed at the Kelvedon and Chichester Homes to provide holiday cover for the permanent staff.

Old Girls’ Association

With the outbreak of war, meetings of the OGA were held just twice a year, in July and December. There was great revival of interest in the association post war and in keeping in contact with past students. Membership had increased from 120 in 1922 to 500 by 1952, with “members scattered all over the world, from Tasmania to Canada”.  It was decided that as each year departed a “reporter” would be elected to take responsibility for gathering and collating their news.  1952 news from Old Girls did indeed come from all corners of the world.  Links with the former countries of the British Empire were still strong and news was recorded from past students who had relocated to Australia, New Zealand and India, with nursing and teaching as popular occupations.

The 1944 edition contains a detailed account from an Old Girl of her role in setting up and running a large RAF canteen for WAAF personnel at a station “somewhere in East Anglia”.  The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force. Established in 1939, WAAF numbers exceeded 180,000 at its peak strength in 1943, with over 2,000 women enlisting per week. The 1944 news from past staff and Old Girls lists many who were temporarily part of this huge workforce.  Past staff were working as Meteorological Officers, doing Radio location work and one serving as a “Messing Officer” in India.  There are 13 Old Girls listed as serving in the ATS, the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the women’s branch of the British Army, and similar numbers with the WAAF and The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS, often referred to as the “Wrens”.)  Large numbers of US servicemen were stationed in East Anglia during the war and in the marriages recorded in the 1944 magazine, several were to US personnel.

In the June of 1950 a special addition to the usual three OGA reunions a year was organised by Miss King, who invited all the married Old Girl’s with their children to a party in Grey Friars garden. Previous Headteacher Miss Crosthwaite attended as a guest of honour.

1950 saw the replacement of School and Higher Certificates with the General Certificate of Education (GCE) at Ordinary or Advanced (“O” and “A” levels). This year also saw the closing of the Preparatory School at Grey Friars due to falling numbers. Mrs P. R. Green retired after serving as school Governor for 40 years, since the opening of the school on North Hill. The magazine pays tribute to her as “one of the few people who had vision enough to foresee the growth of secondary education for girls and to realise that the two hundred odd places then thought to be excessive would soon not be enough” (p27).  In 1952 King George VI died and was succeeded by Elizabeth II. The school also saw major changes in leadership, with the retirement of Miss King, who, with 25 years in post, had been Headmistress for more than half the life of the school. The 1951-2 edition of the magazine includes tributes to her from the students and governors and her own leaving speech. The OGA presented her with a silver cigarette lighter and a Persian rug (1952, p25).  Her replacement was to be Miss Katherine Vashon Baker, who sadly found herself in the position of launching the collection for a memorial to her predecessor in the 1954 magazine, as Miss King died within a year of her retirement.

With a change in school leadership, a House system was introduced.  The 1953 magazine contains reports from each of the eight houses, each with a Latin motto, named after Royal Houses: Hanover, Windsor, York, Lancaster, Anjou, Plantagenet, Tudor and Stuart.

The 1953-54 edition is the last of the magazines in this format that the school possesses.  The next incarnation of the magazine was very different in style, indicative of the changing social attitudes of the 1960s and 70s.