As we approach Remembrance Day on Thursday 11 November, our alumni and development team have been spending some time at the Surrey archives in Woking sifting through Fan Court records. Unlike the Claremont girls who were evacuated to Radnor in Wales during the war, most of the Fan Court boys remained in Chertsey and their termly publication “Vox Leonis” gives an insight into how life carried on during WWII.
Traditionally the boys each contributed something to the publication, usually a pencil or watercolour picture with an accompanying text. There was also a section on current affairs, which in the 1941-42 edition, contained stories of where the British troops were stationed, hand drawn maps of battlefields, articles on how tanks worked, their favourite battleships and heroic men they had read about and admired.
One piece of writing by M Yeatman named ‘Two Months of Raids’ recalls raids taking place near his home during the school holidays around six times a day. “…on a Wednesday night, I woke up with the sound of guns about my ears. Someone called me to look out of the window. It was an amazing sight. Flares were coming down in hundreds, and gun fire was making the wine bottles rattle on the store cupboard!”
A more sombre section in the publication outlines the loss of life in the “Old Boys News” featuring the obituaries for Peter Handely and William (Bill) Llewellyn Jones. Peter was a spitfire pilot who died 22 May 1941 and is buried in Gosport and William was a sergeant-pilot and flew a Wellington Bomber believed to be buried in Nigeria.
Remembrance day is a time for us to think about more than just the loss of life, but also those who were left behind. Those who experience war from home rather than the battlefields, too young to fight but old enough to understand the gravitas. This November we take time to remember not only the troops who fought for Britain and the commonwealth but also the civilians who lived with the repercussions.