Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    


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'A Wartime Recollection'
from Miss Iris H. R. Stevenson


Miss Iris Stevenson, shown above with Mr. Wallis and Dr. Roberts at the Celebration for Mr. Wallis on his 80th birthday at Worthing in 1960.  Miss Stevenson, who taught Geography & Economics at Willesden County from 1941 to 1960, wrote the following recollection in 1994/5.

World War Two and Its Consequences

In 1937 I went to Canterbury as Head of the Geography department at Simon Langton Girl's school.  It was in the High Street with beautiful wrought iron gates opposite the Cathedral.  During the week I lived in the little hotel inside the Cathedral gate and at the weekend in my home in Kensington.  I was an Air Raid Warden in both places.  The day War broke out, I donned the full gas protection uniform of an Air Raid Warden and marched up and down the High Street in Canterbury ringing a hand bell.  When the air raid warning sounded, all the girls had to cross the road and take shelter in the Cathedral crypt.  One day the school received a direct hit and the girls had to be dispersed all over the town.  The Dean, Dr. Hewlett Johnson, otherwise known as the "Red Dean", let me give my lessons in his library. 

On the day of the Battle of Britain, I was taking games while German planes were being shot down, their surviving crew being taken prisoner.  Some Polish officers, who had escaped to England, were billeted in the Buffs Barracks, Canterbury where I taught them English. 

In 1941 I began teaching in Willesden County Grammar School, which at the time had 800 pupils who had not been evacuated from three local secondary schools.  Many were Jewish refugees from Berlin, who were brilliant.  During the holidays the staff worked in Harvest camps.  During term time I was an Air Raid Warden in Kensington, seven nights a week.  A stately home at Hyde Park Corner gave its premises free every weekend for breakfast for the troops from7-10 a.m.  Every Sunday morning I went there to serve breakfast, not to cook it.

In Kensington High Street there was an expensive restaurant called "The Trojan Horse".  I was on duty with another warden when it received a direct hit.  When we got there not one person was left alive.  They had all drowned when the explosion fractured the water mains.

From 1951-55 I was one of the Foreign Office team of four, three men and myself, who met twice a year for four weeks at a time.  We had to restore books and fieldwork - that Hitler had destroyed.  When this work ended in 1955, I became a member, then deputy Chairman, and finally Chairman of the British Atlantic Committee of NATO.  I retired in 1975, but I am still a member.

I was at the farewell lunch for Dr. Adenaur.  He said "Never before in the history of human conflict have the conquered owed so much to the conqueror.  There must be peace in future."

Iris H. R. Stevenson BA