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Our group consisted of about twelve children, the survey lasted for two or three weeks and we were told that we had been selected because we could be trusted. We were informed moreover, that we wouldn’t be punished for eating anything ‘illegally’, so to speak, as long as everything we ate was declared to the coordinator so that an estimate of its weight could be recorded. And because our food needed to be weighed at mealtime, with the weight recorded in a special notebook, our group sat together at a separate table with a set of scales and our coordinator, who just happened to be Elizabeth Lloyd. However, my abiding recollection of this scheme is that despite what we had been told, we thought that the more food we admitted to having eaten privately, the more pleased our coordinator would be and the more we would be trusted and liked by her. So in this respect, we were probably a poor sample of children for such a significant survey.

When war was declared, on the third of September in 1939, it had very little immediate impact upon our lives. I was now a member of the Senior Study, and we often became spectators as small groups of enemy aircraft engaged in reconnaissance, flew over Kent in daylight and were challenged by the Spitfires and Hurricanes of R.A.F. fighter command. The battle would take place at a considerable height and until the air raid siren was sounded, we would lie on the grass and gaze at the vapour trails as the pilots displayed their skill. In fact, until we were able to witness the shooting down of an aircraft, the activity was viewed as entertainment for us rather than a fight to the death. Nevertheless, when we did hear the siren, we followed instructions and headed for the cellar, taking our schoolwork materials with us if we happened to be in the classroom. The floor of the cellar was situated well below ground level, but it possessed small windows at a point where the walls met the ceiling, and these provided us with sufficient light to read.

After the fall of France, in June 1940, the air raids became heavier and we all slept in the cellar at night on improvised beds. But to avoid interruption, everyone settled down at the same time, regardless of their age. The toilets and washing arrangements were improvised, and the staff took turn to remain on duty through the night, often reading to us aloud when sounds of the bombing and gunfire prevented us from sleeping. I recall that the noise seemed louder at night, for although we were much safer at this low level, our cavernous dormitory acted like an echo chamber and seemed to intensify the sounds outside. But exhausted children will always find sleep eventually, regardless of interruptions, and we knew that we would be able to rest on rugs on the lawns during the following day.

As time progressed, more bombs fell and some fell nearby, so a decision was made to evacuate us as soon as possible. It transpired that two members of staff had ‘connections’ at Oxford University, and due to the fact that it was now July and that the students were leaving their accommodation, arrangements were quickly made to utilise it. Those children who lived in ‘safe’ areas were sent home, and the Nursery, which included my five-year-old brother, was re-established at Wycombe Abbey girls’ School, a building that was also being vacated. I also recall that several of my age-group, were lodged with the de Selincourt family at their stately home near Chipping Norton.