Memories of West Green School

West Green C of E School

1824-1955

The school was started for the poor of Crawley and Ifield for eighty boys and forty girls by Sarah Robinson but it very soon had more children as time went on. My mother attended this school from 1905 until leaving in 1912 along with Miss Parsons who later became a teacher at the school from 1920-1955 and retired in 1955 when the old school closed. After 35 years, she was well respected. In the 1930s 2 new class rooms were built facing Spencers Road for the infants, to take 96 children. The teachers were a Miss Greenwood and Mrs Jenkins.

I attended the school in September 1940 and I was in Mrs Jenkins’ class. The teachers when I joined were Mr Weston, Miss Davis, Miss Parsons, Miss Greenwood and Mrs Jenkins. I cannot remember any of the others.

1940 was a time of upheaval. Classes were regularly disrupted on the sound of the air raid warning night and day as the Battle of Britain was being fought above our heads. Also, we only went to school in the mornings because of the influx of evacuee children so the class times were split. The local children attended school from 9am until 12 and the evacuee children from 1.30 to 4.30pm until other rooms were found for them. We were issued with identity cards and the dreaded gas masks which we had to ear for 10 minutes or so after assembly. I can’t remember anyone who liked this.

Around this time milk was introduced. The bottles held a 1/3 of a pint cost ½ penny a bottle. Also, school dinners were available but I don’t know how much they cost. The canteen was held in the Scout hut which was next door to the school in Victoria Road. Both schools used this facility.

We were taught the 3 Rs plus History and Geography. Punishments were the usual lines, kept in after school to write them. Also, Miss Parsons was a dab hand with the ruler across the knuckles and Mr Winter was a crack shot with a piece of chalk. Miss Davis used to wear a thimble and she would rap you between the shoulders or on the head. It was like being attacked by a woodpecker. I don’t think it did us any harm. Probably a lot of good.

The date the 9th of February 1943, a date I shall never forget, at about 8.30am the sound of aero engines and machine gun fire was heard. The next thing was all our windows were blown in and all our ceilings came down and thick black smoke rolled through the house. An explosion was not heard. The infants’ classrooms were destroyed. The main school building had no roof, ceilings or windows. The Scout hut was badly damaged and the school bike shed was blown down trapping Mrs Rice underneath. She was the school caretaker. When she was found, she suffered from shock and bruises. What luck – half an hour later and I wouldn’t have been here talking to you now.

One afternoon on leaving school we were given a note to take home to our parents to say we would be late home the following day. The next day after leaving school army lorries were parked in Victoria Road and the Canadian soldiers took us up to Tilgate Forest to a party. I think we had more sweets given to us than the whole 5 years of rationing.

The 10th July 1944 when we got to school we were told it was closed because a V1 had landed in Malthouse Road allotments and did not explode and the people who lived in Malthouse Road had been evacuated to our school until the flying bomb had been disarmed. Later in the day the people who lived in Oak Road and West Street were not so lucky when a V1 dropped there killing seven and injuring 4 people. Local people who saw it like myself thought at the time the pilot tipped it. The pilot visited the crash and broke down in tears. The pilot was Polish.

A third V1 dropped in Ifield on land adjacent to Ifield School in the Rusper Road. It was never used again. The remains of the school are still there.

 By Rick Leigh, February 2017

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