History comes alive for 'evacuee' pupils

A class of schoolchildren were given a living history lesson yesterday, when they became Second World War evacuees for the day.

Claire Laidler from Beamish Museum helps Bethany Lamond re-create a wartime evacuation

A class of schoolchildren were given a living history lesson yesterday, when they became Second World War evacuees for the day.

Armed with gas masks and ID tags, the children from Burnhope Primary School, near Lanchester, County Durham, caught a steam train to their new "billets".

After riding on the Tanfield Railway near Stanley, they were taken to their new "home" at Home Farm, Beamish Open Air Museum, to fill out luggage labels, cook wartime recipes and write letters to their families.

Clare Laidler, education officer at Beamish Open Air Museum, said the pilot scheme, which it is hoped to extend to schools regionwide, was partly inspired by her mother, Joan Middleton's, wartime experience.

As seven-year-old Joan Nash, she was taken by train from her home in Birmingham to spend two years as an evacuee with a family in rural Leicestershire.

She said: "I have always been fascinated by that period of history from listening to my mother's wartime memories.

"The family who took her in really wanted a boy, because they were stronger to help out around the house.

"My mother slept in a box room which had been used for storing grain. It was overrun by mice, and she tells me how she would lie awake at night listening to the mice scurrying about.

"She was scared to put her toe out of bed in case it was nibbled by mice.

"The urban children were resented by their country classmates as outsiders. The family which took my mother in were very religious and she was not allowed to take her doll out in its pram on Sundays.

"It is a time of her life she often talks about and it fascinates me."

Mrs Laidler added: "Days like this have been designed to link closely with the National Curriculum, focusing on history, literacy, creative writing, speaking and listening.

"Having Tanfield Railway nearby was a bonus, because it gives children a taste of what it must have been like to catch a steam train to an unknown destination."

Nine-year-old Bethany Lamond said: "I am glad I wasn't a child in those days. I wouldn't have wanted to clean out pigs, and neither would I have wanted to have been separated from my little sister, we are very close and I would have run away."

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Project bridges generation gap

A typical day for a World War Two evacuee would have been:

6am: Rise, feed livestock, clean around the house, make bed.

9am-4pm: School, often meeting resentment from local children.

4-5.30pm: Sweep out hens and pigs.

6pm: Tea.

7pm: Prayers.

8pm: bed.

NINE year old Bethany Lamond described her typical day in 2007 as:

7am: Sneak out of bed to watch TV.

8am: Breakfast

8.30am: Go to Burnhope Primary School

3.30pm: Home. Do some homework, watch TV, have tea, play with sister

8.30pm: Bed.

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