Stories about Schools

Chesham Bois Church of England school

Christopher Mulkern

In 1914 we moved from Waterside to Bois Moor Road. The area was then in the parish of Chesham Bois and so I had to attend Chesham Bois C of E School. I remember clearly my first day there. As this was a church school, the first lesson naturally was Scripture. The first hymn we sang was ‘There is a Green Hill Far Away’ and we were taught to recite various chapters of the Bible. Often we had to stand up in the front of the class and read out chapters from our books.

Various events stand out in my mind for which the whole school had to parade in the playground. Always on Empire Day (24th May, when schoolchildren celebrated the British Empire). Then there was the day a great airship came over the school and another occasion when we were all mesmerised by a total eclipse. It was a boiling hot summer’s day but it became very chilly as the sun disappeared behind the moon.

As it was wartime, many things were scarce. Although in normal times the most successful pupils would have been awarded prizes at the end of the year, in those days certificates were given ‘in lieu’. I had to ask what this meant, as we were not taught French. Two subjects that I disliked and just could not get to grips with were English and Music. This is probably because I missed a lot of schooling early on, through illness.

As a school we did many things to help the war effort. We picked blackberries to make jam for the troops and gathered beech nuts to make margarine. We were also allowed time off school to go potato-picking. We had to walk all the way to Raans Farm at Amersham Common. Boys and girls, men and women, also German prisoners of war all worked on the fields. A pole in the ground marked out a length for each person to work on. A horse-drawn machine scuffed out the rows of potatoes. Sacks were distributed at intervals along the ground. We wore aprons made from old jute sacks, tied around the waist but folded up at the bottom to form a receptacle. When full we emptied our load into the nearest sack. One day we were working in a large field when the hooters and bells rang out at 11am on 11th November 1918, signifying the signing of the Armistice. I was one month short of my eleventh birthday. To celebrate, we were allowed to knock off early for the day – unpaid, of course. As it was a very cold, frosty and foggy day, I for one was glad to be going home.

Christopher Mulkern, 1907-2001