Leeds Schools – First Plans


In 1938 Mr Guest, Director of Education in Leeds, wrote a list of sixteen small towns, located to the north and east of the city, which could take all school children in Leeds. Nine other towns were kept on a reserve list.


Parents living in Eccup decided not to evacuate their children. Instead they built a large community shelter in the village.


In October 1938 pupils from Armley Primary, Bewerley Street Infants and Quarry Mount Infants were being measured for respirators and a number of teachers were being given leave to attend ARP lectures.


Most parents of children at Adel CofE Primary and Cookridge Temporary School wished that school continue as normal.


In July 1939 parents at Roundhay Talbot Road School demanded a meeting with the to discuss the evacuation plans  in some detail.




On the 24th August 1939 thirteen boys from Leeds Modern School returned early from an 800 mile cycling tour in Norway and Denmark.


Children at Bewerley Street Infants had an evacuation rehearsal. They, and their teachers, brought food, clothing and gas masks and marched to the yard gate.


Many children from Stanningley Council School missed their rehearsals. Staff thought that some parents may have been embarrassed because they did not have all the clothing that was needed. Ten children, from the youngest to the oldest, marched to the local station. The journey was timed at twenty minutes.


In addition to the clothes they wore children were to take the following items and ‘no more’.

Girls – One vest or combination, one pair of knickers, one bodice, one petticoat, two pairs of stockings, handkerchiefs, slip, blouse and cardigan.

Boys – One vest, one shirt with collar, one pair of pants, one pullover or jersey, one pair of knickers, handkerchiefs, two pairs of socks or stockings.

All – Night clothes, comb, toothbrush, plimsolls, towel, soap, facecloth and spare shoes.


All pupils at St Peter’s School were marched, as a rehearsal, to Leeds Station by their headmaster behind a teacher’s four-year-old daughter.


Schools were given three signals announcing the three stages of departure. ‘Get Ready’ signalled that all school trips should be cancelled. ‘Be Ready’ signalled all visits to baths and clinics should stop. ‘Go’ signalled that the date of evacuation would be announced.



Evacuation Day


On August 31st, all Leeds schools received a message ‘TO EVACUATE 1st September’. Please proceed with your arrangements. All good wishes. Mr Guest, Director of Education, Leeds’.


There were fare fewer buses for commuters going to work in Leeds.

Pupils from Allerton High School and West Leeds High School were sent to Retford. Their new school buildings were the Girls’ High School in Retford and King Edward VI Grammar School respectively.


It is reported that children from Stanningley School carried their possessions in everything from suitcases to rucksacks to paper bags.


Only half of pupils at Thoresby High School turned up on the morning of evacuation.


Children from St Peter’s Mixed School were sent by train to Harrogate and then by bus to Summerbridge.


Girls from Roundhay High School were disappointed to find their buses stopped in Otley and not in Scotland.


Children from Green Lane County Primary School hoped that the buckets on their train were to be used at the seaside. They were to be used as toilets.


QUOTE - ‘Eventually we reached Lincoln and queued up in the big station yard, with rucksacks and gas masks, and cloth identity discs hanging forlornly round our necks. Buses swept us to one school after the other. Then there followed another wait. Eventually we filed into the classrooms, filling them up one by one. As we passed the doors we were given brown paper carriers, one each, containing a day’s ration of food. Young ladies, teachers at the school, came round with jugs of water.’ Paul Fitton – Roundhay School Sixth Former.

The bags contained a tin of meat, chocolate, two cans of milk and two packets of biscuits.


Girls were more popular than boys with householders. Sometimes brothers and sisters were split up. The older stronger boys were often taken by farmers to help with the work.


A Thoresby High School teacher trailed round the streets of Lincoln until 10pm until the last of her pupils were settled.


Four teachers from Quarry Mount School didn’t find a bed to sleep in until a farm house offered them space in a loft where apples were stored.


Adjusting to Evacuation


Teachers from Wykebeck Junior School asked for sixteen pairs of shoes from the Boots for Bairns Fund.


A child from Meanwood CofE Primary School had only the clothes he was standing up in. His teacher’s were told to ‘write to friends in Leeds for the second hand clothes’.


QUOTE - Mariam from Cowper Street Primary wrote home to her mother saying ‘Dear Mam and Dad, I arrived safely and are staying with some very nice people. They is me and another girl and we have a small bedroom to our own. They said that we should be one family. There are millions of apples and plums. From your loving daughter, Marian’.


QUOTE - The Headmistress of Allerton High, Miss Henderson, wrote from Retford  ‘We have been having games, botany, walks, sketching and gardening’.


QUOTE - The headmaster of Cockburn High School reported that ‘athletics, swimming, geographical expeditions, botanical walks, sing songs and sketching parties have been arranged and that some of the senior boys were helping with the harvest’.


QUOTE – One girl from a Leeds school wrote to Mr Guest, Director of Education in Leeds, after only five days saying ‘ please come and bring me home on Saturday as I am fretting.  I haven’t eaten anything since Monday, just drank cups of tea. I pray every night that you might come to bring me home’.


QUOTE – ‘I am helping with the household tasks, washing, ironing, making meals and looking after the young girl’ . Joan Malkin, Gipton School.


QUOTE – ‘I work hard fetching water several times a day’. Maxwell Broadley, Queens Road School.


A teacher at Whitehall Road School started ‘early warning’ inspections of clothes so that pupils could write home for new clothes.


A teacher at Lower Wortley School wrote in frustration to Mr Guest, explaining that only half the clothes requested for a particularly needy school girl had been received.


Pupils from Hunslet, Leeds were photographed meeting the Ickleton Fox Hunt at Hooten Pagnell, near Doncaster.


A letter from foster parents in Sherburn in Elmete noted that ‘boys eat much more that can be bought with 8s 6d’.


A Thoresby High School teacher was ‘on duty each weekend opening up the school for activities and washing hair’. Parents and visitors were welcomed with cups of tea.


Roundhay High, a science orientated school, shared use of a school building in Lincoln that offered a classical education. Over half of Roundhay’s pupils stayed in Leeds and were provided with no education.


At St Michael’s Church in Headingley over 150 children were educated in morning classes by trained teachers who volunteered.


As a result parents set up an action group. The Secondary school board agreed to open five schools on the periphery of the city. Two at Roundhay, Two at Lawnswood and Allerton High School. Air raid precautions were built at a cost of £8,000.


In October an additional 732 evacuees departed from Leeds.


By October 1939 forty one City of Leeds School pupils had returned to Leeds. A teacher from Roundhay School for Boys reported that numbers were ‘diminishing daily’.


Returning Home


A letter from parents of boys attending West Leeds High School emphasised that ‘parents intended to have their children home for Christmas’.


It was estimated that as many as 700 evacuees would return home from Lincoln for Christmas. More than half of evacuees from Coldcotes School, Bewerley Street girls would spend the holidays in Leeds.


Local churches at Great Houghton, near Barnsley, provided entertainment fro children evacuated from Hunslett Carr. At Morton, near Gainsborough, a church building was opened by volunteers so that children could meet their friends over the holidays.


In Retford a concert included folk songs by pupils from Allerton High School and monologues, dancing and musical items from West Leeds High School.


Headteachers at Cockburn, West Leeds Girls and Boys School received a letter from Mr Guest notifying them that their school would reopen ‘some time early in the new year’.


Fewer than ten pupils from Roundhay High School were expected to return to Otley after the holidays


Schools which had already opened were Colton Primary, St Margaret’s CofE at Horsforth, Meanwood Bentley Lane, Bewerley Street, Belle Vue Road, Quarry Mount and Beckett Street.