Mansfield Revisited – June 2015

As the 75th anniversary of the school’s evacuation to Mansfield approached, I felt it was worthwhile commemorating in some way, in spite of there being no more formal events after the Millennium. So I wrote to the Principals of The Queen Elizabeth Academy (formerly Q.E.G.S.) and the Brunts Academy (formerly The Brunts School) suggesting that I paid them a visit – perhaps to talk to a small group of pupils as an oral history project. They both kindly agreed and invited me to visit after the exams were over. On 20th June my wife and I travelled to Mansfield and spent a week visiting and renewing acquaintance with places and people (or their descendants) with whom I still had links all these years later.

Next day we visited St. John’s Church in whose school we had been mustered for distribution to our new foster homes on 2nd June 1940. After joining in their worship we were welcomed by church members who showed us their church history display. I was able to identify and date boys, men and the Vicar in old photos from the archives. My twin brother, Tom, and I had been in the choir at St. John’s and also in the 6th Mansfield Scout Troop, as well as a company of the 1st Notts. Cadet Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters in the Army Cadet Corps. Peter Wright, the Church Treasurer, at St. John’s happened to be a Governor/Manager of the Brunts Academy and promised to try and be at the school for our visit.

On Monday we met Dennis Randall, a now elderly gentleman who was the son of our foster parents, Mr & Mrs Len Randall. He was born in 1945, three years after we left Mansfield but we had kept in touch and visited his parents while they were alive and subsequently Dennis and his wife, so it was good to renew our links with them.

On Tuesday we made a brief visit to Nottingham, where I had been a student at the School of Architecture in the early 1950’s. We saw a transformed city but still with recognisable parts, including my old digs! The next day we visited the Queen Elizabeth Academy where we were welcomed by the Principal, Mr Mike Smith. We were shown around a much enlarged school, but still retaining the original buildings so well remembered. The school now combines both boys and girls and boasts impressive new teaching blocks interspaced by fragrant gardens. I spoke to a group of 12/13 year old pupils who were doing a study of the Second World War. I was listened to with great interest about the evacuation experience and was asked many questions. We took some photos of the group and subsequently sent them to the school for their records.

On Thursday 25th June we visited The Brunts Academy, which is now a much larger school of some 1,500 pupils, and were welcomed by two of the History teachers with Peter Wright, the Manager, in the absence of the Principal. The school had moved from the old buildings some 30 years ago and was developed on the former playing fields where we had played hockey. My brother and I had visited them on their Centenary celebrations in 1994 so we were familiar with the site but the school is now a much larger institution with impressive facilities. Again I spoke to a group of 12/13 year olds who were also studying World War Two. This time they had done their homework and came with many prepared questions! There was a lively interest and the session was videoed for subsequent use.

The school had brought out their original archive material and we were shown a copy of their school magazine for Summer 1940, which told of the impact of being ‘invaded’ by SHSB – a situation which we really hadn’t been aware of at the time.

We rounded off the week with a visit to Southwell Minster, the cathedral of the Nottinghamshire Diocese, where I had sung as a chorister at Choral Festivals in the years at Mansfield. We really appreciated the welcome we received in Mansfield and it was good to see both schools (Academies) thriving so well and relishing our little bit of mutual history. Overall it was a most memorable and worthwhile experience.

Doug Mayhew (Troy, 1939-1944)