We were so honoured to have OJ, Peter Baker, talk to the students about what it was really like being at Judd during the War.
Judd During World War II We were so honoured to have OJ, Peter Baker, talk to the students about what it was really like being at Judd during the War.
Last week we were delighted to welcome back OJ, Peter Baker (1937-1944), who kindly came to talk to The History Society about Judd during World War II. The talk was open to all students and staff and we welcomed back four other OJs as well who were keen to come and hear him speak: Bryan Winter (1940-1941), Mike Dobson ((1950-1956), Howard Dolling (1954-1958) and the historical author, Eddie Prescott (1953-1960). We were delighted to see how many students gave up their lunch hour to come to listen – the substantial venue was nearly full!
Peter gave an overview of how he felt Judd had changed since he was last here and he hasn’t been back since he left all those years ago! He was so surprised by all the cars on site – in his day there were no cars. They only knew of one person who came by car, and that only appeared occasionally! He recalled how the students used to walk up Brook Street and laugh at the teachers cycling up the hill on their bikes - of course without gears in those days!
Peter surprised us by announcing he attended Judd from the age of 7! The private school he went to (held in the back room of a lady’s house and which consisted of about 15 pupils) happened to have the past Judd entry exam papers which all the students practiced completing daily – and they they were taught that they had to learn how to do arithmetic in their head. When Peter sat the entry exam for Judd, the master who accepted the exam papers in, Mr. Furnival, asked Peter where his workings out were – he couldn’t believe that Peter did it all in his head!
Peter was therefore successful in his application to Judd and he joined just after the celebrations to mark the 50th
Anniversary of the school. Peter remembered there was a new cricket pavilion erected to mark the occasion, made of Canadian pine wood – but that got burned down some years ago.
Peter remembers how the teachers used to box his ears for being cheeky – he remarked that you wouldn’t see anything like that today!
War was declared in 1939 so school had to be cancelled as there were no air raid shelters for the children to hide in if there was an air raid. Over the months that followed during the Autumn term, air raid shelters were built at Judd and the children greatly enjoyed being off school during that time. When there were enough shelters to fit all the children in, the school was reopened again, but when the students returned, they found that they had to share the school with Westminster City School who had been evacuated to the countryside.
Peter recalls how it was odd sharing the school and it started on a rota basis – each school having the site for three days a week and alternating them. Gas masks were needed each day and you were sent back home if you forgot it. They had regular gas drills to see if the masks were working properly and they were tested by placing a card under the respirator to see if the suction was strong enough to hold the card up. They didn’t have a uniform in those days – they wore any suit they had, but caps (which were commonplace for schoolboys at the time) were not worn as the factories were busy making more important things for the war effort.
Many masters in the school were called up for service and they were replaced by retirees and the first female teacher arrived! This was hitherto unheard of in a teaching capacity especially at a boys’ school. Peter was delighted to see various female staff in attendance in his talk.
The air raids came and the students did make much use of the shelters under the school. They were long tunnels with benches on either side and usually one low lightbulb. They had to have their lessons there and he remembers it being very cold.
He reminisced that they could hear the V2s coming over as Tonbridge was in what was known as ‘Doodlebug Alley’. Britain’s first line of defence was the battery of guns on the White Cliffs of Dover. After Tonbridge, planes struggled to get over the North Downs to Sevenoaks as they hit another line of fire.
The students were taught that when you heard a plane engine that meant a crash landing was imminent so everyone had to get under their desks.
Mr. Baker reminded all the young students assembled of the notable of war heroes Judd had produced who fought in World War II:
Neville Duke had been educated at Judd and was captain of many of the sports teams, and though he was obsessed with flying from an early age, had to wait six months after leaving Judd to be old enough to apply to join the RAF as a cadet in 1940. As mentioned in Eddie Prescott’s recent book, “during 1941, he flew Spitfires in sweeps over France with 92 Squadron from Biggin Hill, and on his return he had a habit of flying low over Tonbridge to let his parents know of his safe return….he rose to the rank of Squadron Leader and flew 486 sorties… he was shot down several times, but always managed to escape capture. His tally of 28 enemy aircraft destroyed, made him the top Allied Fighter Ace in the Mediterranean region of the war by the age of 22… in 1953 he became something of a celebrity when he set a new world air speed record of 727.6 mph.”
Neville Duke was decorated for gallantry 6 times during the war.
Peter also mentioned Judd rugger captain, Terence Lewin, who also performed with remarkable valour and distinction during the war. In Geoffrey Taylor’s book, ‘A History of the Judd School’, he mentions, “The citation for his Distinguished Service Cross for ‘daring, skill and resolution’, revealed that when serving as First Lieutenant on HMS Ashanti on the Russian convoy, he took command of an open boat, seeking to attach a towline to a limping destroyer, HMS Somali…. When the doomed ship finally sank …. Lieutenant Lewin went over the side to rescue some of the crew… the incident took place at 2.30am, that it was snowing hard, blowing a gale and that the sea temperature was 1 degree celsius.’
The Independent newspaper obituary said of him: “Terence Lewin was regarded by many as the best Admiral the Royal Navy has produced since the Second World War… .he became First Sea Lord in 1977…. As Chief of the Defence Staff during the Falklands War, Lewin became, according to one MoD deputy secretary, "the most powerful man in England".
Peter Baker’s story continued about how school life didn’t include trips in those days – and no out of school activities as everyone got home as soon as they could. They did used to attend the public swimming pool in Tonbridge for their swimming lessons however, but to do this in the allocated class slot of 50 minutes was a challenge. Peter regaled an amusing story of how one day it took him so long to walk to Tonbridge pool between classes, to change into his swimming gear and find the others swimming, at which point the whistle blew for everyone to get out as it was time to return to school - he was delighted he didn’t get cold and wet that day.
The audience were informed that there were two 6th
form year groups in those days made up of about 30 students – what a change from our 444 today!
The Headmaster at the time was Lloyd Morgan who resided in Headmaster’s house and his office is what is now known as The Study. Peter remembered how Morgan used to watch the boys from his window to see if they were misbehaving and if you were caught, he would open the window and bellow at you whilst beckoning with one finger…. Peter was summoned just this way one day and he was wondering whether he was in trouble. Morgan simply ordered him to go and get him a tin of tobacco for his pipe from the high street which Peter thought was a great relief!
Peter’s talk was met with a very enthusiastic applause from the students, the staff and the OJs who were present. He then kindly answered lots of questions people wanted to ask about his experience. Two students gave Peter a tour of the school as it is today and he was amazed by the changes.
It was a wonderful occasion and we all greatly enjoyed all the anecdotes Peter shared with us. Peter was very grateful to all the kindness shown to him by everyone on the day and was grateful to the boys for showing him around. He loved seeing his old class room and the old photos still on the walls. He said he very much enjoyed it the day too and would always remember it.
If you are an OJ and would like to come in and give a talk about your experience in a specific field, please email: email@example.com