John Uppington

Recollections of wartime at Rutlish School.

Rutlish School

John Uppington was eleven years old when the war began in September 1939. For the duration of the war, John was a pupil at Rutlish School, Merton Park. Prior to the outbreak of war, the boys had been issued with gas masks and shown the air raid shelter allocated to their class. John recalls:

‘[We were] told in the event of a sudden attack to enter any shelter, but to try to enter the correct one to enable the register to be checked. As the shelters were unlit pupils had difficulty in entering them until someone produced a match to light the only candle there. Some [shelters] had a hurricane lamp to be lit, but they usually produced black smoke as well as light!’

Air raids

Air raids commenced in 1940 and the school suffered damage a number of times during the war. Luckily no pupils were injured whilst at school. In August 1940, a small bomb fell in the main corridor of the school. The damage that was done was not repaired and a wooden bridge was put over the large hole in the floor caused by the bomb. John recalls how school was cancelled for a number of weeks, both during the Battle of Britain and during the period of the flying bombs. In July 1944, a flying bomb landed in the grounds of the school, both the Junior School and the Science Building were completely destroyed. The chemicals in the Science Building kept the building burning for three days.

The Cadet Force

John was a member of the Cadet Force. He describes his time in the Cadet Force as ‘quite good fun except that as one became older it slowly dawned that not very far away men were doing what we played at for real, and not all of them came home’.  

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 13/06/2012.
Comments about this page

Brings back memories of school shelters. Old chestnut, but we were told to bring a bar of chocolate to school in order that should our stay in the concrete shelter exceed half-an-hour, we would be able to consume our iron rations. The siren marking the all-clear inevitably went off in the 29th minute! Never saw my chocolate again!

By David Alston
On 04/07/2012