The OD Issue 2 - page 14

12
THE Od
WarTIME
into them at the first alarm, usually
sounded at dusk or at night. There was a
degree of confusion and Dragons could not
always distinguish between the warning
siren and the all-clear; one morning having
taken cover erroneously, they took the
genuine warning as the signal for release
and surged out cheerfully for a bathe
as the rest of the neighbourhood went
underground.
1940 brought an end to the ‘phoney
war’ with heavy night bombing raids.
November saw attacks on industrial
centres in the Midlands and Oxford was
frequently on the raiders’ flight path. As
the evening sirens sounded, children
were led from their dorms, classrooms
In Time
of War
War came to the Dragon before it was
officially declared. In September 1938,
following staff deliberations about what
preparations to make, an excavator arrived
to dig trenches for shelter. As ‘Mechanical
Mack’ made zigzag gouges in the sports
field it dawned on children and staff that
war was no longer a mere possibility but a
frightening reality. Outwardly the Dragon
spirit prevailed as C.H. Jacques recorded
in his 1977 history of the school,
A Dragon
Century
: “Junior Dragons, peering in, hoped
there would not be room for desks.” Some
like John Walters (OD 1943) were more
fearful. “The shelter soon filled with water
and I supposed that if a German bomber was
shooting at us then some of the zigs or zags
would not protect all the boys,” he recalls.
Following the Munich Agreement however
the trenches were filled in. Not knowing
of course what lay ahead, the Headmaster
‘Hum’ Lynam hailed this moment as the
“Great Deliverance”.
Air Raids
Preparations for war did not cease however
and by September 1939 two air raid
shelters, dug by the staff, were complete.
One for Gunga and day boys was installed
near the river bank and the second for
School House, Stradlings and Charlbury
was sited in the garden of School House;
both had toilets, lighting and tubular
electric heating. At first everyone trooped
Oxford escaped the bombing of the Second World War that devastated so many
British cities but it felt all the effects of life in wartime. Those at school were not
exempt; Oxford was listed as a ‘receiving’ area which required private schools
not to make independent plans for evacuation and to set a good example to
others by remaining in situ. Memories of this extraordinary time were prompted
by the Reunion last November for those who left the Dragon before 1950; these
recollections encouraged
The OD
to look in to Dragon life from 1939 to 1945.
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