The last hurrah


A group of World War II evacuees who spent the war at the same school will be holding a reunion on September 1 — and it could be the last time they meet.

The group, who were at Dame Alice Owen boys’ school in Islington, were evacuated on September 1, 1939, two days before Britain declared war on Germany.

They were taken to the town of Bedford and Bedford Modern School, where they have held a reunion on that day every decade since 1979.

One of the organisers, David Bernstein, who lives in Croydon, has helped write a book about the group, most of whom are now in their 80s.

“It’s a bit much to think that there might be another one in 10 years’ time,” said Mr Bernstein. “I think it’s highly unlikely.

“But we all think it’s quite remarkable that we have stayed together as friends for this length of time. Without doubt, it was the wartime experience.” He estimated that about 10 per cent of the boys in the school were Jewish.

One task the former evacuees will undertake is to fix a plaque to the wall of the school as a lasting commemoration of the time they spent there.

“We were aliens but we played up to it. We played displaced Cockneys in Bedford. We were a little bit cheeky and pushy.

“We kept together after school and during the week-ends, which we had never done before,” said Mr Bernstein.

“Occasionally we went back to London. It was five shillings and a halfpenny for a child on the train, so as we got older, we cycled back.

“Most of the boys have very good memories of their experiences with their ‘billet ladies’, as they were known. At least one boy stayed in contact with his ‘sisters’ all these years,” he added.

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