The outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September, 1939, came as little surprise to many people, neither was there any doubt that the Port of Liverpool, as the prime receiver of goods for Britain’s survival, would be a major target for German bombing raids.
As a result, plans were already in place for the evacuation of the city’s schools, with Blue Coat pupils led by the Headmaster Rev R Bruce Wilson departing from Liverpool Lime Street station at 11.20am, on Monday, 4 September, 1939, destined for Beaumaris, Anglesey, North Wales. This was a regular destination for the school’s annual day out by excursion ship from Liverpool. Meantime, the school buildings were requisitioned by the War Office as its missing persons’ bureau.
Although Beaumaris is a small town, its residents welcomed the 270 children and 30 adults, who were initially billeted in private houses. Eventually, Red Hill House was rented for the girls and some junior boys, followed by Woodgarth mansion. Although everyone settled in well, difficulties in actually educating pupils worsened in multiple locations. The Governors obtained and converted a large house called Bryn to bring the boys and girls all back under one roof.
As more male staff were called up into war service, a teacher (and later headmaster) GG Watcyn, formed an Army Cadet Company, affiliated to the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The cadets even took part in the Changing of the Guard at Caernarfon Castle. Students also recall helping out at the RAF Coastal Command’s Beaumaris base, lending extra muscle to haul the Catalina flying boats ashore!
Joan Gordon (nee Evans) attended Blue Coat School during its evacuation to Beaumaris, Anglesey, to avoid the Liverpool Blitz, of the early 1940s, as the German Luftwaffe attempted to destroy the strategically crucial port for Britain’s wartime survival.
“Blue Coat was remarkable and moving to Anglesey was an incredible experience, although I saw even less of my mother than previously. I think it was only once during the entire six years of war, as travel was so restricted.
“While the school was a life-line for helping my family, it was very intimidating for someone very shy like myself to board from such a young age.
“But Beaumaris was a lovely place and the people were very friendly. Our English teacher was wonderful and we took part in marvelous plays like Merrie England in the amazing setting of Beaumaris Castle. Looking back we had a lot of freedom to play out and explore the fields and woods. It was a shock coming back to Wavertree and we were so restricted by boundary rules and only allowed out of the school grounds for two hours on a Sunday afternoon.”
The school returned to Wavertree in May 1946, but its temporary Welsh relocation is not forgotten with Old Blues returning for the annual Memorial Service in Beaumaris parish church.
Old Blue Hugh Stephenson, who joined the school in Beaumaris in 1944, like Joan Gordon recalls: “In Beaumaris there had been a great deal of freedom to roam around the town and countryside. In Liverpool our freedom to leave the school’s premises was much curtailed.”
Peter Elson – Blue Coat For All Project Manager