Twenty-five essays written by boys in School House about their experiences during the bombing of Sherborne on 30 September 1940.  These are part of a collection of 160 essays written by boys at Sherborne School (aged 13-18), and one housemaster (A.H. Trelawny-Ross), about their experiences that day.  They appear to have been written in November 1940 and February and March 1941, and were probably set as English ‘hall’ (homework) by A.H. Trelawny-Ross.

Arranged A-Z by surname:

Thomas Stanley ADAMS (b.1927)
Attended Sherborne School (Elmdene, now Wallace House, & School House), September 1940-July 1945, tennis team 1945 (captain).
Age on 30 September 1940: 13.

‘An Account of the Blitz’
On September 30th 1940, I was in room seven during the first period in the afternoon, when the siren blew, so we all went down to the room below as was the custom in those days.  After about ten minutes work we heard the windows and door shaking violently and a faint rumble in the distance so we immediately ducked under our desks.  Before we had a chance to think the rumbling had turned to loud thuds as the bombs came closer and closer until we heard a terrifying crash; when glass and rocks came through the windows. After waiting a few minutes to see if the raiders intended to return, we went across the cloisters, on the way seeing the craters in the courts, here the Head Master [Alexander Ross Wallace (1891-1982) Headmaster 1934-1950] told us to return to our houses.  When I had made a wide detour of the countryside, I at last found myself back at Elmdene.  Here we had tea in the dayroom and packed our hand cases to go up to School House reading room where we were to live for the next week.  The reason for this move was that the police had found an unexploded bomb outside Phillips [now the Melbury Gallery] so they took Elmdene as a danger spot and ordered us to evacuate.

After a week the bomb, not having exploded, was taken to be a dud, and it was dug up and we were able to return to Elmdene, after sleeping on the floor in School House reading room.  There were about 300 bombs dropped on Sherborne and much damage was done to the school.  The Big Schoolroom was rendered unsafe so all cine show had to be cancelled until the necessary work had been done.  Nine bombs were dropped on the playing fields so for the next week or so after, we were picking up stones on Fields 1 and 7 or filling in the craters, this job was rather boring but it had to be done if we wanted to play.

John Harold Frank BATSTONE (1924-1986)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1937-July 1943, Exhibitioner, School Prefect, Head of House, Ridout Science Prize 1943.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘The Air-Raid’
Once more the boredom of afternoon school was relieved by the welcome groan of the “Mariners Lure”, & indeed the sound of its “sweet song” was sought after by many.  A watcher from the Abbey tower might have observed the usual ant hill effect as boys came pouring out, & eventually I found myself in the Cloisters comfortably armed with cushions and a book.  To me & to everyone it was the same old ‘ramp’ soon to be cut short by the all-clear again.  After about 20 minutes, dull (& perhaps even sickening) thuds were heard in the distance.  These thuds soon became something more than thuds, but strangely enough became more & more sickening as they drew nearer.  Every few seconds the scream & whistle followed by a deafening explosion became more & more distinct, until at last, I thought I was going deaf & that every whistle & scream I heard was the last.  Everyone, including myself, was huddled up with heads between hands trying desperately hard not to look frightened.  The explosions were making a ring of spite all round, to which the newly erected walls did not seem proof, as showers of cinders & other such worse-for-wear objects blew in through the entrance just by the library steps, resulting in a prompt evacuation of that neighbourhood.  The terrifying effect was altogether enhanced by the precision like banging of the heavy door into the School House Studies [now the Headmaster’s office], which seemed intent on applauding the arrival of each bomb in this manner.  Not only this, but the very ground seemed to be shaking too which did not lead itself to equilibrium of mind.  However, there did come a time when it was distinctly apparent that the bangs, whistles & screams were receding further into the distance with each second, just as before, they had been approaching.  My reaction, as everybody’s was, “what a thrill”, “something to write home about now” & an intense curiosity to see the damage.  Everyone was craning necks to have a look, and eventually I managed to slip out through a study window into the courts, where I learnt that the siren was out of action, but that it was ‘all clear’.  The examination of the damage done was a very exciting affair, especially as my first estimate of 20 bombs on Sherborne turned out to be more like 200 bombs.

Our escape was miraculous.  There were 4 bombs landed in the courts, which released a second later or earlier would have resulted in considerable loss of life.

Richard Bolding BRAYNE (1924-2004)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1938-December 1942, Upper 6th form, XI 1942, Fives 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘My experience of an air-raid’
On September 30th in chapel we sang Hymn 13.  At the time I thought of the unlucky superstition without dreaming of the coincidence which was about to happen, and it was not until that evening in bed did I again think of the hymn.

I was having a French period when the warning sounded and I shut my books with satisfaction and said to myself “Good, now for a nice slack time.” I was ready for a warning and had a book with me.  We all went down to Room 1 and had not been there long when suddenly the door rattled continuously for a few seconds, then it stopped.  I had often heard it rattling before with the wind, but this time it seemed much more determined and went on too long for a gust of wind, and besides there was no wind blowing that day.  When the door ceased rattling for a moment, there was complete silence in the room and I could hear a low rumbling, rapidly approaching, and I could distinctly feel the ground shake.  It was just the same sort of trembling as if an earth-quake was beginning except that the lights were not swinging.  Suddenly we were told to lie down and it all seemed so much like a dream that I did not do it at first, but as soon as my mind came to bear I realised what was happening, but still I was not in the least frightened. I even felt like laughing at seeing the sedate master hiding under his table looking anxiously at us.  It was so out of place.  But all these comic thoughts vanished and when the bombers were almost over us I got a queer feeling in my stomach which ran all the way up my spine.  I instinctively put my book above my head and faced the floor, an act which I was sorry for later, but I am sure I never opened my mouth, as one is told to do.  Soon there were the really big explosions and I was biting my teeth together so tightly, I cannot think why but I know that I was, and as I kept looking at the ceiling to see if it would come down my mind was fully occupied and it seemed very soon that it was all over.

When I had time to think I thought that the bombs were about a hundred yards oft as a few windows were broken, then I got that queer feeling in my stomach again and I tried to read, but I could not concentrate as the continual roar of aeroplanes made me think that more bombs would follow.  I got a dreadful shock when a motor-cycle accelerated just outside the window and went up Hospital Hill and I was glad to see somebody else pat his stomach as if to say “That made my inside jump!”  Several people went to the windows but I preferred my place on the floor.  In about a quarter of an hour a few people had left their shelters and were in the courts so I at last plucked up courage and went to the window and saw to my amazement that the nearest bomb was barely twenty five yards away, and I also saw bits of rock lying all over the place and I wished that I had not kept my face covered so that I could not see the rocks being thrown out of the ground.

I soon got out my camera and took a few photographs, but owing to the bad light I got poor results except for one time exposure of the interior of school room.

As a result of the raid I got what one might call “bombitis”, and any door banging or similar noise made me jump, but that went off in one or two weeks.  I had always been wanting to be in an air-raid, partly I must admit, because I thought it would be grand to say I had been in a raid, but thinking it over, now I have experienced one, which perhaps accounts for my new attitude, I would much rather say that I had never been disturbed or molested in any way by bombs, during the whole war.

Christopher Hugh COURTNEY (1924-1994)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1938-July 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘Impressions of September 30th’
I was struck by the number of things that would rattle, the door, the radiators, and even the wall seemed to join the novel cacophony.

The general movement appeared downwards so I followed suit, feeling the need for company.  I felt vaguely contented that my trousers need a clean anyhow, so that an encounter with the floor would not show.  A paragraph in the paper ran through my mind suggesting the removal of spectacles and the placing of an India-rubber between the teeth were good precautions in such an emergency, so although my rubber seemed to have been mislaid I carried out the other part of the advice.  The noise of the performance was altogether too great to have any real impression on the mind, it was like a silence only the other extreme.  The glass seemed hesitant to leave its accustomed position but it gave in after a short time, with such noises which stood out against the background of sound.  I felt somewhat shaken by this unprecedented event and prayed that the end, one way or the other, would shortly be reached; it did not really seem to matter which way.  And all the time I felt rather the unreality of everything and the phasing of an A.R.P. notice floated before me, “In the unlikely event of an air-raid…”

After the noise had died away the silence remained unbroken for some time, relieved by the sound of other aircraft which did not appear to be hostile.  The noise of feet on broken glass was carried to my ears and I felt an [incredible] curiosity to see what had occurred.  My imagination mulled gruesomely over the possibilities, from those near at hand slowly further outwards, like the waves produced by a stone thrown into still water.  When it became too uncomfortable I mentally changed the subject, and considered my immediate surroundings. After being released from the confines of the room, I walked slowly back to my house [School House], [?subtly] numbing my preconceptions until my imagination ‘boggled’.  I was as a man in a dream, my mind would not adapt itself to the sudden change of circumstances. I did my studies mechanically but I did not really become adjusted until some time later. I knew what the term ‘shaken’ meant.

Alec Stuart DANDRIDGE (1922-2011)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1936-July 1941, House Prefect.
Age on 30 September 1940: 17.

The School Archives includes photographs taken after the bombing by A.S. Dandridge.

‘Air Raid’
The warning went in the middle of an English period, and the set proceeded to the classroom below.  The various members of house fire squads went to their houses, I went with two other boys to my post at the top landing of the School House dormitories.  We had intended to read Hamlet, taking a few parts each, but our minds wandered, and A produced a clockwork car whose direction could be controlled by a steering wheel on the end of a bit of wire connected to the car.  The idea was to knock over as many skittles – also provided –  before the spring ran down.  We were fully absorbed in this ingenious toy, and emitting shrieks of girlish laughter because B would keep steering the car round chair legs, when we felt the first vibrations and heard the first rattlings of window frames and dormitory doors.  We were not long in taking up the undignified but recommended posture on the stone floor.  The vibrations got worse, and it sounded as if there were madmen rattling the doors.  I looked at A, he said – and I could hear him quite plainly, “I doubt whether we shall get through this.”  The floor underneath us was moving up and down, not in quick shudders, but in slow waves.

Looking back on it now, the thing that impressed me most is the collection of queer noises.  There were no individual explosions, no ear splitting crashes; but loud cracklings and the noise of rushing wind, which, coupled with the short sharp whistles of the bombs, the crashing of doors and window frames, and the swaying of the building, made those short two minutes appear a lifetime of apprehension.  I regret to say, no thought of praying, no thought for the safety of anyone else, entered my mind at all, I think that my mind was blacked out for most of the time.  Then everything was quiet, oppressively silent, little streams of dust were falling from the lathes whence the plaster had fallen.  The building was creaking as if it were on the point of falling down.

“Downstairs?” I said, and A & B were half way down the first flight before the word was finished.  I followed; I don’t remember touching any stairs, I just flew down them.  All was quiet and I looked out of the house door.  I could just see the mound of earth in the middle of the courts through the haze of dust.  At this moment the Headmaster [Alexander Ross Wallace (1891-1982) Headmaster 1934-1950] charged past me in a dressing gown and a towel round his waist, his slippers scraping in the thick layer of dirt on the concrete paving.  It transpired that he was in the middle of having a bath when the bombs began to fall.  Rather like the case of Archimedes in some respects.

James Leslie Alban EVATT (1923-2010)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1937-July 1941, 6th form, School Prefect.
Age on 30 September 1940: 17.

‘September 30th 1940’.
I was sheltering in the archway just beside the Pound [now the computer room in the library], when the blitz took place.  My first impressions were of hearing several loud bands in the distance. Most people on hearing these explosions looked pleasantly surprised, and were rather excited to hear real bombs so long as they did not come nearer.  Mr Hey [Samuel Hey (1904-1977), Assistant Master 1926-1973] then came round telling everyone to lie flat. There was at that moment, not a rumbling, but just a motion which made everything rattle without any noise.  There were explosions getting nearer and nearer, and I had the sight of Mr Hey going as flat as anyone else on the floor in half as much time.  On looking round one could not see anyone sitting up, everyone was flat, and some people were trying to burrow under others.  I clean forgot the government’s instructions about putting my hands over my ears, but I did remember to grab a book, and I bit on this with my teeth, holding my body by my elbows a little way off the ground.  The crashes increased in violence until the whole shelter was rocking and the noise was such as I have never heard before.

The thing that surprised me more than anything was that I wasn’t frightened.  I had been out on Home Guard duty and been bombed then, and was almost scared out of my wits; falling shrapnel alone from the A.A. guns had made me pretty nervous, but this did not frighten me at all.  Perhaps it was that I had undergone my baptism of fire sometime before.

I remember little incidents in the height of all the concentrated roaring and crashing. I remember looking up and seeing little bits of plaster falling off the Cloister roof.  This made me hope my head would be crushed before my body, and also set me wondering what I would look like, and how long it would be before they dug me up. I was quite expecting to be killed within the next minute or so, but I was not frightened, though much less scares can send me into a cold sweat.  I remember stupidly watching a heavy text book, Borradaile’s Manual of Zoology go sailing down the Cloisters, and I almost mechanically saved another book which was travelling the same direction, the one known to all Sherborne embryo doctors as “the blue book”.  I remember watching the door known as the Studies door, which leads into the School House studies, out of which had shot like startled rabbits three School House prefects, and I can almost see it now, bulging with each explosion, and I wondering interestedly when it would disintegrate.

I looked round, and those faces which were to be seen were very green.  Everyone was flat, it was a most extraordinary sight, they might all have been dead from the amount of movement I could see.  I also remember carrying out a small scientific experiment on myself; slipping the fingers of my right hand round my left wrist, and feeling to see how fast my pulse was running.  The person next door to me, who was covering his head with a cushion, looked up for one second, said “Hallo!” and buried his head again.  This, I thought, was no end of a joke.

Then I remember hearing the ominous “pshee-ee” of a bomb coming down, and I braced myself for the shock.  I had been expecting a pretty colossal shock, but the actual shock surpassed all my expectations.  I had a violent feeling of weights pressing on my ears; the actual noise was indescribable.  My nose felt as if it wanted to bleed, and I instinctively bit deeper into the book between my teeth.  I think the crash must have been the bombs that landed in the Courts, because I distinctly remember hearing all the windows for a long way round go tinkling in little pieces.  There was a sudden blast of hot air, and a smell which my small experience of chemical analysis made me at once say to myself “nitrogen peroxide”.  There was a cloud of yellow smoke, and something prompted me to sit up.  I saw, down in the direction of the Half Moon Hotel, a great spout, or perhaps fountain of earth, debris and rubble belching skywards.  This must have been the bomb that hit Ireland’s [Harry Ireland, saddler, died when his shop in Half Moon Street received a direct hit].

My actual thoughts during the colossal crash was that “Stukas” were dive bombing the Courts. My reason for this was that on O.T.C. parade, the last Friday, a Hun reconnaissance plane had been over, and had been fired on in the far distance.  I thought he had probably seen us in uniform, and come over for a second visit.  Then the crashes changed into an incessant roar, of not nearly so great intensity, and eventually died down.  A little while afterwards, Scott the lab demonstrator [Stanley Westcott Scott (1908-?), laboratory demonstrator] and Mr Davis [Henry Cecil Waring Davis (1903-1989) assistant master 1928-1967] arrived in the Cloisters. Mr Davis was green, but Scott, commonly known as “Mooney” was as unperturbed as if a careless person had dropped a flask, instead of a few tons of high explosive.  To say he was covered in plaster does not give the full effect. One of the lenses of his spectacles was white with dust, which gave him a comical effect.  His hair looked as if it had turned grey overnight, but he still had that amiable grin on his broad moon-like face, and said cheerfully, rubbing his hands together, “Hallo Evatt”, as if I had met him in the lab.  He then said to me “D’you know Hen (Mr Davis) wasn’t at all frightened.”  I afterwards learnt they had both been sheltering in the passage by the heat lab and two heavy oaken doors had gone sailing past.  Another three inches further out in the passage, and they would have both been certainly dead.

I have never heard anything, no not even a tea party, for the conversation in those Cloisters.  I met Mr Gervis [Henry Shorland Gervis (1897-1968) assistant master 1921-1964] who began to talk to me in his typical halting manner about the physical phenomena of it all.  I really do take off my hat to the Headmaster for arriving in the Cloisters, not noticeably perturbed, in a pair of pyjamas and dressing gown. No propagandist could have designed any device more calculated to raise the general morale. He was cheered to the echo.

No one was upset, one or two people were a bit green and shaky, but on the whole everyone was very cheerful, though I believe they were only cheerful because their lives had been spared by some tremendous miracle.

John Anthony Balck FOOTE (later BALCK-FOOTE)(1924-1944)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1938-July 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘My impressions of September 30th 1940’, IV B. English Essay, 12 February 1941.
At about half past four on Monday afternoon on the 30th September, when the School had settled down for the afternoon periods, we heard the “banshee wailing” of the sirens. Nobody took any particular notice as we had had several daylight ’alerts’ before, and nothing out of the ordinary had so far happened except for the low pitched drone of enemy machines. When that particular ‘alert’ was sounded I was in Room 13 trying to do some Geometry. If I remember rightly it had been quite a fine day, rather cloudy, but no rain. The sun was setting or just about to set at the time, it wasn’t a magnificent sunset, but just an ordinary one, one would expect on such a day.

For the first five minutes of the ‘alert’ everything was peace and quiet, and I really didn’t pay much attention to the outside world.  But suddenly I looked up. Had I heard something?  I listened again – yes, it was unmistakable this time – the continued low pitch drone of bombers.  The thought flashed through my mind – where were they bound?  Yeovil, Bristol, or some important town further inland?  I think I must have been one of the first to look up, for a little later I saw the rest of the form raise their heads.  The master taking us saw that & told us to get on with our work & pay attention to him as he was just about to explain something on the blackboard.  Before he began, however, he reminded us what to do if bombs should fall i.e. climb under the desks & keep away from the windows.  Hardly had he finished his sentence, when I thought, (and I think a good many others thought) I heard somebody rather heavy trying to get in through the door.  But hardly had the thought flashed through our minds when there was another thump – then another and another getting nearer each time.  No – it was impossible, there could be no person trying to get into the room. Those thumps were bombs, bombs & more bombs – what else could they be?

Then, with one accord everybody shot under the desks & they came nearer, nearer & nearer. Then the whole place seemed to shake. “By Jove that’s a near one” I thought.  It is us not Yeovil or Bristol that’s in for it. I grit my teeth & crouched lower.  It felt more like an earthquake than anything else, the whole place seemed to rise several feet, quiver & then fall sharply back again. Then for a fleeting second thoughts like this flashed through my mind. What happened if there is a direct hit?  If the roof falls in? Splinter & debris are hurled at you like thunderbolts? But no sooner had they entered my mind, they went.  There seemed to be a lull.  I and a few others gingerly got up. No sooner had I poked my head over the top of the desk that I was down in a shot.  A whining whistling noise was descending uncomfortably nearer.  A second or two later it landed – the whole place shook from top to bottom, the windows were blown in & scattered all over the floor, the whole place was filled with dust & rubble & the place stunked of cordite.  That’s the Science buildings gone up, I thought and still they fell screaming, “thudding” & shaking and almost deafening you.  What seemed an eternity dragged to an end.  The whole “incident” took about 3½ minutes.  After a lull of about half a minute we slowly got up and shook all the dust and filth from our clothes.  Almost immediately someone from outside shouted, “All in the cloisters. Hurry up please.”  We wended our way there without further ado, and stayed there for about twenty minutes.  We were then told that the “all clear” had “sounded”, but the electricity, gas & water mains were out of order.  We then teemed out into the Courts to find it compassed by one huge crater & two smaller ones. Then I set off by myself & later on with a group of people to look at the damage.  The Science buildings still stood, though badly damaged, the class room slightly battered in places & the Big Schoolroom tottering, but the cloisters were unharmed.  Then the usual notices that nearly always appear after a raid, & were seen denoting the presence of time bombs.

At first sight, the whole town looked as though it had been lifted up & thrown violently down again twenty miles off.  But as the days passed, things began to look & be normal again, and I was truly thankful that I & everybody else had escaped possible death or serious injury.  Sherborne has certainly been in the war, like a good many other “blitzed” towns & cities, has come through it with spirit undaunted ready to stand up to anything more fate may decree.  At any rate we still have with us the “silent influence of the Abbey.”

Peter Martin FOSTER (1924-2004)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1938-December 1942, Scholar, Upper 6th, School Prefect, Head of House, Huish Exhibition.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘Air-Raid Impressions’.
I cannot rightly remember what the weather was doing on September 30th but have a vague impression of a cloudy sky, at any rate, in the afternoon; this is, I believe, born out by the attack being, it was stated afterwards, delivered from cloud at c.10,000ft.  The “warning” sounded at the beginning of the first period in the afternoon and a classful of boys from upstairs had joined us for greater safety in No.5 Room.

The first intimation of the approaching storm was a sudden rattling of the door, which created a most weird sensation. Even then I, at least, did not fully grasp its significance and grinned at my neighbour because of the welcome diversion in a rather dreary summer afternoon’s Spanish period, for Mr Baker [Henry Howard Baker (1902-1977) assistant master 1929-1965] was not the man to give up work for an air raid warning. However, we were not long left in doubt.  One “crump” followed another and we were soon all under our desks, including Mr Baker!  On looking back it seems amazing the time we seemed to spend under those desks before the bombs really got close, considering it could have been little more than 20 to 30 secs taking the ‘planes’ seed as 250 mph and the first distinct rumbling which we heard as 2 miles away.  It is probably incorrect to say “one crump” after another – it was more an ever loudening rumble, exactly what I have always imagined an earthquake to be like; it was only the last few which we could distinguish as individual bombs.  The final ones which completed the crescendo sounded like an enormously heavy weight being dropped on the floor above us.

As they had come, they went till they were nothing but a rumble in the distance and again it seemed years before all was silent.  That all was silent is strictly incorrect, for some time after the noise of bombs had ceased we heard ‘planes overhead and I am ready to admit I was rather afraid they might come back.  In actual fact I believe it was our fighters. It was a goodish time before the first head appeared and a little longer before Mr Baker cocked a wary eye round the door and announced with considerable satisfaction that there was a large crater twenty yards from the windows.  Soon after the Headmaster appeared in his dressing gown to announce that there was an unexploded bomb in Perry’s garden [Joseph James Perry (1870-1941) school gardener for 33 years (1908-1941), lived at what is now the Bursary] and that we must move to the Cloisters.

So much for facts, now for impressions. I have already mentioned the seemingly unending length of time. Next I admit fear.  The buildings seemed a sort of trap and I would have felt far happier, though quite unjustifiably, outside. I had no fear of being killed – not the physical action – but felt many regrets for what I would miss and a genuine fear of being buried or maimed.  I don’t mind admitting that I thought that at any rate I would soon discover the secret of the mystery of death – in short I thought we were for it.  The next impression was a wonder of the little broken glass there was in the room – only the last bomb succeeded in breaking any windows.  The next impression I have is that when Mr Baker first attempted to go out to see what had happened, he was sternly advised not to go by the senior members of the form, who in the excitement forgot themselves; this particularly impressed me as I always like to imagine that nothing ever works me up much and I found myself suddenly coming to after a period of excitement and laughing at myself.  The next impression was genuine amazement that none of the buildings had been damaged more than superficially and amazement too at the size of the crater in the Courts.  Finally, though this has now become a platitude, I was impressed by the complete absence of panic or hysteria, though the form from upstairs were quite young.

Patrick William GILES (1926-2013)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1940-July 1944.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14

‘Sherborne’s first blitz of the 2nd Great War’.  English Hall. 17/2/1941.
On Monday, September the 30th 1940, Sherborne School had been back 10 days and had already heard the siren quite a lot.  But on this day, Monday September the 30th we were to have more than an alert!  At about 4.45 pm, the siren was sounded once again, and the usual routine followed. People working in an upstairs classroom went down to the ground floor one directly beneath them, while people in the science laboratories and art school and any other different places proceeded to the cloisters. Our form, IIa, were in Room 16 with Mr Whittle [Charles James Richardson Whittle (1921-2001) temporary assistant master 1940] doing History when the siren went.    When we heard it we gathered up our books and went downstairs to Room 14 where Mr Parkes [B. Parkes, temporary assistant master 1940-1942] was taking, I think, a History lesson.  I, and I daresay one or two others were very glad that the siren went because we had to write an essay on “The 30 Years’ War”, which I knew very little about, and I thought we probably wouldn’t have to continue it, or rather start it.  Well, we were fixed up now and so were other people and we were told to start working. I was sitting on the first desk on the end, nearest to the window. I didn’t start my essay straight away, but thought about nothing, as far as I can remember, for a few minutes and then I started. I had just written the heading of the essay when we all heard an explosion in the Yeovil direction. We all looked up and then there was another explosion and we took cover underneath the desks.  Then bombs were falling good and proper.  They sounded like miniature screaming bombs to me.  Glass was shattered.

David Robert Maxwell GLASSE (1926-1949)
Attended Sherborne School (Elmdene [now Wallace House] & School House), May 1940-July 1944.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘September 30th 1940’
When the Air Raid Alarm was sounded, I had to run back to Elmdene [Wallace House] as I was in the fire-squad.  When we had been sitting in the passage for about a quarter of an hour, we heard ‘planes coming over and  they sounded like Huns, then suddenly the doors and windows began to rattle.  The air was filled with dust and there was a horrible whineing, punctuated by dull thumps and thuds.

We all crouched on the floor, and the doors blew open, but nobody troubled about them.  Luckily Elmdene was sheltered from the blast by other houses, and the whole show was over in about three minutes.  It was over so quickly that I only began to feel frightened afterwards, and even that did not last long as we all went up into an upper dormitory to watch a big fire that had broken out in Long Street direction.  Suddenly four Bristol Fighters came over from Yeovil and flew round in the smoke which had risen to about 800 feet.

When the rest of the house came back at about 5’clock they told us that there had been 4 bombs in the courts and one in the road outside the armoury.

The next day we discovered that there was an unexploded bomb in the road outside Phillips [now the Melbury Gallery] in Half Moon Street.  So we were told that we were going to sleep in sleeping bags in School House Reading Room and that we would have our meals in the San.  When we got back to Elmdene, I was so used to sleeping in a bag that I couldn’t get used to a bed at first.  Newlands was very heavily bombed and so was Lenthay.  6 bombs fell on the Playing Fields, one in the Headmaster’s Garden and a time bomb in Parry-Jones’ [Abbey House], which went off about four hours later.

Peter Richard Colling HOCKIN (1925-1994)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939-July 1943, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘September 30th 1939’, 12.2.41.
During the course of the afternoon of September the twentieth, I went into Mr Randolph’s [John Hervey Randolph (1898-1975) assistant master 1922-1967] classroom for the last time for three months.

While Mr Randolph was patiently trying to teach us the rudiments of calculus, the air raid siren sounded.  This was still a comparatively novel occurrence, for I remember feeling very badly used when we were told to continue our work.  I had almost forgotten the ‘alert’ when I heard one or two explosions, which to my inexperienced ears might have been anything.  However we all lowered ourselves to the floor rather leisurely, and started to debate upon the matter with some heat.  This was cut short by more explosions, which, to me at any rate, seemed far too close to be pleasant.  I could hear the throbbing of the bombers almost overhead, when the building shook violently.  A second later there was a most tremendous crash, the floor convulsed and bits of glass fell all round me.  The atmosphere of the room was awful, consisting of a strong smell of cordite and gravel dust from the Courts.  I remember an impotent desire to get the bomber crew at the wrong end of a Bren gun; it was then that I realised that I was covered in glass splinters; like a fool I had taken cover on the window side of my desk.  For some unknown reason I scuttled off to an obscure corner.  This however was full up so I returned to the other side of my desk, and waited for the next bomb.  There were no more bombs forthcoming, so after a few minutes we were driven across to the cloisters, a bit shaken and dazed but otherwise perfectly sound of limb.  The only result being that I treated air raid warnings with considerable respect for the next week.

Michael David HOGG (1925-2001)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939- July 1943, Exhibitioner, Upper 6th form, Marson Greek prize 1943.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘The Air Raid’.
When the siren sounded I was in the science block.  In accordance with the orders just posted we trooped over to the cloisters and settled down.  I cannot remember how long it was before the affair began, but I do not think it was long.  The first I heard was a distant explosion: we were immediately told to like down.  I seemed to be on top of a heap of people round the first pillar at the School House end: I do not really know whether it was a heap, but at any rate I was partially on top of someone who had a light coloured coat on.  The explosions grew louder and louder and I stuffed my fingers in my ears, but I was still able to hear quite a lot; I then realised that we were in the line on which the bombs were dropping and after a particularly loud one I thought “The next one’s ours.”

I do not think I can say I was frightened; I did not have time to be really.  But I was certainly not infected with panic.  This strikes me as rather peculiar, especially as at one point I was imagining a bomb exploding in the cloisters and meditating how painless death might be.  I seemed to have plenty of time for these unpleasant speculations but not enough to be frightened, as I said above.

Then there came the most thunderous detonation (I had before wondered whether my ear drums would burst, not that this mattered seeing that I thought I was for it in any case).  This is the only time I heard a whistle at all; other people have told me they could distinguish four separate ones, but I just heard one, and then – well, I cannot remember my feelings at all, but I am sure the place vibrated like a piano baso wire.  The explosions then “passed by on the other side.”

After that everybody sat up and let off some steam by shouting, but were immediately told to lie down again.  Eventually we came out of the state of lying flat and noticed chunks of stone everywhere.  An enormous and dense cloud of yellow dust passed in front of the [School] House and I thought it was on fire.  However, this blew off and I realised what it had been.  When we began to walk round again I jumped up and looked at the broken windows on the other side of the Courts over the blast wall.

At last we were let out and I got some [?] of metal from somewhere.  The rest of the day I felt quite uncoupled, and spent the time wandering round looking at the wreckage, swearing in a very futile way for no reason at all.  I shall always remember finding the clock in the Big School going 19 to the dozen and pointing to about 12 o’clock at 5 in the evening!

John Claud JACOB (1925-2005)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1939-December 1942, Scholar, Upper 6th form, Hockey 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

It is extremely difficult to write an impression of an event which passed so much like a nightmare.  The peace of an ordinary day so suddenly broken into by a vision of hell on earth. Someone that morning had, during an alert, tried to be funny by dropping large books on the floor; it seemed most ironical that the very thing should have come true, on the same day.

When the siren went little did I think that we should be amid such a holocaust of destruction.  My main thought during it was whether the air raid was going to be like those I always imagined.  My idea of an air raid was a lengthy period of incessant bomb dropping; the aeroplanes would circle round and round dropping one bomb after another.  I was amazed when I saw the damage.  I could not believe so much damage could have been done in so short a time.  People after the raid put the length down at almost 4 minutes.  I thought myself that the raid lasted a bare two.  The Germans were almost as frightened as some of us!

After the raid everything seemed to be most strained.  There was a feeling of silence that reigned over the place.  There had been such a noise a few seconds earlier that it seemed unusual that bangs were not going off.  That evening came the clearing up of various places over the school.  Dirt which had been in position for ages came down in quantities that would have never been believed as possible before.  Every nook and cranny seemed to have poured forth filth.  When darkness came the lack of electric light was apparent. Candles were few and far between. To add to the confusion in the darkness during the following night the air raid wardens seemed to have gone mad.  Whistles blew in all directions all the night and what with unexploded bomb scares the nights passed in a muddle.  The main thing that was stuck in my mind was the high percentage of bombs that fell in open ground. Surely the fact that so few casualties resulted in the town was due to Providence of God.

Ian Raymond Arundell LEAKEY (b.1924)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) January 1938-July 1942, Exhibitioner, Upper 6th form, School prefect, Head of House, XI 1942, XV 1941, Hockey 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘September 30th 1940’.
It was a dull afternoon and the interruption of a school period was nothing out of the ordinary; people took their usual places with habitual calm.  An air raid warning was quite common at any hour of the day or night, however it would be an exaggeration to say that the novelty of escaping a bit of work had worn off.  I settled down with a book in the cloisters by the entrance facing the Headmaster’s study – this being the lightest spot that I could find.  However it was impossible to read owing to the noise of voices.  For about half an hour I sat there passing the time by chatting with anyone within earshot; I also derived some amusement from watching a cushion fight which was taking place in the far corner.

The time must have been about ten minutes to five when there was a dull thud which might only have been the sound of a door closing; on the other hand there was something in it which was not reminiscent of anything so casual. Most people had noticed it but had not paid much attention to it, when again and again the same sound was unmistakable there was nothing strange in a few bombs falling in the distance because after all the siren had gone.  We were not given much opportunity of wondering what exactly was happening; these distant rumblings were followed by what can best be expressed in the words of the bible “the rushing of a mighty wind.”  The general impression which I got was of people dashing to the entrances of the cloisters, I suppose with the idea of identifying these intruding planes which by now were close upon us.  For my own part I crawled from my light corner to a more secure position beneath the Headmaster’s notice board.  I caught glimpses of Mr Hey [Samuel Hey (1904-1977) assistant master 1926-1973] on one knee by the Pound door, directing operations like a policeman on point duty.  His gesticulations were perhaps somewhat more lively and at the same time he was shouting orders to lie down.  By this time the silent influence of the Abbey was being impiously desecrated and even the stout walls of the undercroft were trembling at the explosions of bombs which seemed to be falling on top of it.  On looking back at those few moments which were nothing else but hell, I find it difficult to remember what exactly I thought was happening and how many bombs had fallen.  After one of the closer explosions I snatched a feverish glance out into the open through the northern entrance above the blast screen. Instead of seeing a block of classrooms I saw a column of rubble hurled into the air and long after it had fallen back, dust and smoke pervaded the scene.

People gradually began to uncurl from the positions in which they had been grovelling, but it was some time before there were any distinct signs of the complete disappearance of all fear.  We did not know at the time whether the planes had gone over or whether there were still more to come; still less did we know whether or not they would return and launch another attack upon this vital industrial centre!  Comic relief was provided admirably when the Headmaster [Alexander Ross Wallace (1891-1982) Headmaster 1934-1950] appeared in a dressing gown, his face lit up with a broad smile.  A hearty cheer welcomed him – and very appropriately too.  He had apparently just returned from a game of squash and was enjoying a hot bath at the time of the raid.  He was seen diving along a passage in his underclothes, taking the quickest route to the cellar.

By now it was quite clear that everything was over and orders were issued to get on with work, for indeed there was still half an hour to go until six o’clock.  There was a mad rush for the courts and people disappeared like rabbits down the four craters which had reduced them to a shambles.  One felt that one was living in some strange land of dreams as one walked round and viewed the havoc.  Places that were so familiar seemed ridiculously grotesque and uninviting in this their ruin. At the time my mind was much more active than my eyes which merely looked on as if in a stupor.  The greens were littered with stones and mud and wherever one looked there were bare windows with no panes and glass was strewn everywhere.  However the damage in the courts was nothing compared with that in the road by the armoury.   It was strange to consider that one blast bomb had done so much damage whereas four ordinary high explosives in the courts had been content with merely breaking glass.

So many classrooms had been rendered unserviceable that it was now obvious that work could not be continued that evening and most people took advantage of the time to have a look round.  I should think that Sherborne School has never been looked round by so many so eagerly as at that time.  All the laboratories facing the road and also the Armoury office had the plaster torn from the ceilings and the havoc caused by the broken bottles had to be seen to be believed.  Weighing machines had been hurled bodily out into the road and in retaliation, boulders had been deposited over the floor and desks. The museum was perhaps the most pathetic sight of all. There was chaos in the cases which had been deprived of their glass and all the birds and animals were snow-white with plaster.  Inches of rubble lay beneath one’s feet as one walked along and the sky could be seen through gaping holes in the roof.  The two main doors of the science block were blasted from their foundation and hurled many feet from their posts.  One of the science masters was taking refuge with the laboratory assistant in a doorway at the time when the blast bomb landed.  The main door was hurled passed them up the passage and came to rest a few yards away.  They were congratulating themselves on their fortunate escape when they were rudely interrupted by a cake of plaster which could not have been aimed more accurately.

Tea that evening was eaten with feverish haste but nevertheless some interesting stories went round which no doubt were exaggerated as they were passed on.  It must have been amusing to have watched one of the School House maids, who was conspicuous for her size, being pursued at high speed down a narrow passage by a boulder of considerable weight.  Apparently she made good her escape and the boulder came peacefully to rest.  I heard also that the Classical VIth, who were taking shelter on the stairs outside the Oak Room, were heavily bombarded by some of the larger pieces propelled either from the Courts or from Half Moon Street.

After tea I wended my way down to the Games Fields.  Everywhere one was faced with the same ruin and desolation all sides. Nothing could have disabled the Upper so perfectly as the crater which had gashed it. On the other hand one can imagine the disparagement of the inhabitants of Lenthay as they saw the destruction of their own houses and then turned to our playing fields which were comparatively intact. It was a strange day but nothing was perhaps so strange as the question which still to my knowledge remains unanswered – “Why were two hundred bombs jettisoned on Sherborne?”

Peter Nicholas MAAS (b.1924)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1938-July 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘The Air Raid’. 5 March 1941.
To be bombed is not a pleasant experience, but one which is very well worth while experiencing, and to write an account of a raid months after it happened is an extremely difficult task.  Such a description can never be completely painted unless put down in writing a week or so afterwards.  The inner feelings and emotions are somewhat hazy.  However, an idea of what happened in that raid is indicated.

I happened to be leaving Tudor history with Mr Brown [Herbert Henry Brown (1891-1963) assistant master 1920-1955] in the Lower Library, and it was just after a strenuous corps parade from which I had begun to suffer the effects – sleepiness and a general fatigue.  The siren, that dreaded banshee wail, sounded the alert about a quarter of an hour after school had begun, and as was quite usual no one took very much notice.  However a few minutes afterwards we all heard the drone of many aeroplanes in the distance, and then to our great discomfort we heard far away the thuds and dull explosions of bombs.  In a matter of seconds I had rushed under the table, a good weighty piece of wood capable of holding up pretty nearly anything.  Everyone did the same including the master and for just a short while I felt thoroughly frightened.  I could hear the bombs whistling down, and the thunder of their explosions; the walls, ceilings, windows and doors thudded and rattled backwards and forwards.  No one said a word during the falling of the bombs and what was most terrifying was listening to the whistling of the bombs and the suspense in not knowing just where they were going to fall.  This, I am sure, was in everybody else’s mind.

When the planes had disappeared the room became full of the smell of cordite, and looking out of the windows which curiously enough were still intact, I saw a gaping hole in the roof of the Oak Room.  The greens outside the Headmaster’s house [School House] were littered with rocks and other kinds of debris.

I felt a sense of extraordinary security afterwards.  I thought to myself well it’s all over now, and we have had our share, and they are not at all likely to come back again for a very long time.  It seemed that here was something that would really break up the monotonous routine of the term, and here was something that would for ever be imprinted in my memory.  Here was an event that would be written in the annals of Sherborne, and when I had become an old grandfather, with a pipe and sitting in a large armchair by the fire, I would be able to say “Well, my boy, it was many years ago back in 1940, when I was at Sherborne that…”

Geoffrey Francis McMULLEN (b.1925)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939-December 1943, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

At about 4.20 pm on Monday Sept. 30th the “Alert” sounded. IIA were in Room 16, on the 2nd floor, doing History with Mr Whittle [Charles James Richardson Whittle (1921-2001) temporary assistant master 1940].  We all went down to Room 14, where Mr Parkes [B. Parkes, temporary assistant master 1940-1942] was taking IVF.  As we came down the stairs we could hear the drone of several planes, flying very high in the direction of Yeovil.  Quarter of an hour later we heard the planes coming back, then there were a couple of distant thumps and all the windows on the Yeovil-side, which were capable of opening, flew open.  At Mr Whittle’s command we all crept under the desks.  Then the floor seemed to become alive.  I was lying flat on the floor, with my hands over my head, and I am certain that the floor dropped a couple of inches and then flew up again and hit me on the chin.  In 3 minutes it was all over, all the windows on the Yeovil-side had been blown in in spite of the cellophane.  As we got up from the floor we found the room was full of dust and the smell of burnt powder was pretty strong.  Hearing nothing Mr Whittle decided that we should go over to the main cloisters, in threes, when we got there someone told us that 5 bombs had landed in the Courts, I personally thought him a rumour-monger until I saw the craters with my own eyes.  Several times we heard planes come over again, but they were far too busy with RAF to bother with us.  Not long afterwards the School Custos [William Norton, School Custos 1938-1964], an Air Raid Warden, came and told us that the “All Clear’ could not sound as the electricity had failed.  We had supper as usual, but in candle light.

John Allen Sandys NEWMAN (1924-2007)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1938-July 1942, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘The Raid’.
Afternoon school started at 4.00pm, and as the day was a Monday, I was in the Lower Library doing English with Mr Brown [Herbert Henry Brown (1891-1963) assistant master 1920-1955] for the first period. When the siren went, as it had done previously numerous times, we merely drew the thick green blackout curtains across the deep set windows and took our chairs from out of direct line with the, ‘just in case…’  Then we went on with our work.  At the first bomb, we all dived under the tables, Mr Brown, surprisingly, being one of the first under. Doubled up, my arms around my head, and my mouth tightly shut (I didn’t remember about that till afterwards), the first thing I thought was, “Thank heavens these tables are pretty thick”, and the next I was conscious of was that I was saying over and over again, “So this is what it’s like; so this is what it’s like”.  There was a temporary lull in the bombardment, and Mr Brown called out, “Is everyone all right”, and we all chorused “Yes sir”.  Then the bombs started falling again even nearer and I was just saying, “Will the next…”, when a voice said, “By Jove, the Abbey’s coming down”, and I looked up quickly.  But it was only a piece of dressed stone from the parapet along the roof.  Almost simultaneously, there was a tremendous crash, and the lights flickered and went out; but that crash was the climax, for the next bombs fell the other side, and the next further away still.

We stayed under the tables for a short while and then got out. Mr Brown went to see if it was safe yet, and we remained chattering excitedly as to what damage had been done and where the nearest bombs had fallen. Someone produced a fives ball, and three of us started to play catch, but it was very difficult since my hands, and, in fact, my whole body was quivering and shaking so much that I often missed.  Someone else produced some chocolate, and was at once assailed with, “Oh be a sport”, and “Come on, give me a bit”.  Soon Mr Brown returned saying that the ‘All Clear’ would have gone, only the electricity had been damaged.  We all streamed out, eager for souvenirs, and I thought myself very lucky to find a piece perhaps an inch and a half across firmly stuck on to the recently tarred road just outside the main gateway.

Ralph Lambton Robb NICHOLSON (1924-2018)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1938-July 1942, Exhibitioner, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘September 30th 1940. My impressions.’
When the siren started its ‘banshee howling’ at about 4.30 in the afternoon, I little guessed that anything would happen out of the ordinary and that no more than distant gunfire would give us a topic of conversation for the following period of time of which the length would depend upon the extent of the gunfire.  This period of time turned out to be nearly infinite.

I was in number 8 classroom and on the alert we trooped downstairs and deposited ourselves upon the floor of room 6. Ten minutes later I heard the sound of distant explosions and erroneously assumed it to be gunfire.  However, the bangs increased in loudness and as they came nearer I realised they were bombs.  I have heard many ‘dins’ and explosions before but the crescendo of screeches and explosions that followed put the others ‘in the shade’.  I vividly recollect that terrible and awe-inspiring space of time during which I saw a large section of the Courts blown up and the windows of the room came in.  My mind was a jumble of thoughts.  How near were the bombs? Would one hit the building? What would happen if it did? Were any more bombs coming down? Or had they gone away for good?  Thanks to God, they had.

After the worse was over, we were cheerfully told that some had landed just outside the door.  I had reckoned on one or two being in the Courts but the fact that there were “four or five” exceeded my expectations.  In suspense, while the drone of aeroplanes was audible above, we wondered whether the chapel or science buildings had been hit, whether School House was in ruins and whether there were many, if any, casualties.  However, none of these dreads proved true.  Afterwards we looked at the damage and, not being permitted to return to work due to unexploded bombs, we erected barriers, directed civilians and told some of them that there were no casualties.  I realised that the raid had been heavy and although the affair was exciting, it was, on reflection, rather sickening to see the playing fields and buildings wrecked.  The rest of the day was spent in clearing up, exchanging reminiscences, and so forth. Everyone seemed cheerful – there were bright sides to it, the appearance of the headmaster in somewhat unsuitable attire and the inability of the siren to sound the all clear – and everyone seemed calm despite the fact that Sherborne had endured an exceptionally ‘concentrated’ blitz, the news of which resounded throughout the country.  Perhaps there is just cause for saying, as a master did, “Confound the person who invented the internal combustion engine, and anyone who would have if he hadn’t.”

Richard Bickersteth OTTLEY (1925-1994)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939-July 1943, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘September 30th’, 12 February [1941].
It is about four o’clock, and we are sitting quietly at Mathematics. Suddenly the siren starts wailing, and as it has been doing so a lot lately, without any bombs being dropped, we are all grateful, as this means we shall “knock off” work for perhaps an hour!  After we had been sheltering in the cloisters for about twenty minutes, there were several fairly loud thuds in the distance.  I didn’t pay much attention to them, but just went on talking.  But, however, in another fifteen seconds, the air was filled with the noise of the exploding bombs.  I have never been so terrified in my life, and never shall I forget that awful little shudder the earth gives, a split second before the bomb actually explodes!  However, after ten minutes, the only sound that could be heard was the roar of our fighters overhead, and I have never been so pleased to hear the sound of them before or after that memorable afternoon!

Maurice Wilden Montague POPE (b.1926)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September, 1939-March 1944, Scholar, Upper 6th, School Prefect, Head of House, XV 1942 and 1943.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘The Air Raid’.
It was September 30th, in the most pleasant season of the most pleasant term of the year.  For the first few weeks of the term are always the best; we are all fresh, both to ourselves and to our work.  I was especially fresh to mine since I had just passed the school certificate and was able to do what I wanted.  Thus I was looking forward to a settled term when the Germans came.

We heard the siren on Monday afternoon while I was doing ‘English’.  It was a sound to which I was fully accustomed, having lived in London where the sirens take up the cry, one after the other, like the mournful lions in the zoo.  At Sherborne, however, there is only one siren, and I always find the sound satisfying from its very fullness; but in September 1940 it was all the more satisfying since we were bringing down German planes by scores. Now the Lower Library, where I was, being considered a safe room, we continued working, peacefully, without a thought of air raids.

Suddenly like a frightened dog straining at its leash, the glass in the windows strove for freedom; it rattled for a second, then became quiet; the leash was taut.  I shall never forget that ominous silence, that lasted but a split second before we realised what was happening.  I was the last under the table since I am always slow in circumstances that require quickness of thought.  Although I felt secure under the very firm tables, I gave myself additional moral support by pressing on the underside of the table with my back, for I have always had a horror of being squashed; I opened my mouth and put my hands over my ears, just as if I had been a model citizen in the Government posters.  I do not suppose that it took more than two seconds for us to be in position under the tables but it seemed longer, and then we could hear the bombs falling – s-s-swish- bang! S-s-swish-bang! I thought as if in a dream; you don’t hear the one that this you; you either get hit or you don’t; it doesn’t last long; don’t worry, it won’t do any good.  Then, just as abruptly as it had begun, it finished.  Although I did not know it, I had formed and maintained a philosophy during that air raid; and some weeks after, by a strange coincidence (or was it not? I wonder), Christian Fatalism was the subject of an excellent sermon we had preached to us.  I, for one, attended fully to it.

Robert Mark ROMER (1924-2017)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) January 1938-July 1942, Scholar, Upper 6th form, Morcom Science prize 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

When the warning sounded, I went down to No.1 classroom. Soon after the door began to shake, and at first nobody connected it with bombs. Then we heard the first bombs exploding and we lay on the floor.  The noise was terrific, so much so that we could not distinguish any particular bomb.  I thought that the Germans were flying from North to South, and I remember wishing the RAF would drive them away. I cannot remember much else of what I was thinking at the time except wondering how long it would be before we were hit.  I was very thankful when the bombing ceased.

We were told to keep away from the windows, and soon after a vile smell of cordite fumes reached us. I thought that the bomb had landed in the road outside the main gateway and I was very surprised to see the ones in the Courts.

I cannot remember thinking much about the damage except that it was rather an adventure, and offered a chance of escape from the boredom of school curriculum. It was very interesting seeing for oneself the damage done by bombs, and it gave one an idea of what other people have been through.

John Eric Somerville SCOTT (1926-2012)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) January 1940-1944, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘September the 30th’.
On the afternoon of Sept. 30th, I was doing Maths in classroom number thirteen, when the air raid siren went.  A not very unnatural thing for it to do.  We had previously had orders, that if the siren went during work time that any forms working on a top floor were to descent to the bottom floor and work there until the “all clear”.  Being on the bottom floor, my set did not move.

Nothing happened for about a quarter of an hour, when I heard some ‘planes in the distance.  Then I heard a lot of rumbling going on, and the door began to rattle. I dived under the desk, and, as the ‘planes came nearer the rumbling and the quaking of the room became more intense.  I could now distinguish the whistling of the bombs, and the windows began to bulge in and out, like a ship’s sail in a strong breeze.  I felt as if someone was squeezing my head.  Gradually the thudding got louder and louder, until there was an almighty explosion, and all the windows fell in, and clouds of dust filled the room, until I could hardly see my hand in front of me.  I thought the whole building had collapsed on me, but no, everything was still standing.  Things seemed to quieten down a little then, and we were told to go to the cloisters as quickly as possible.  I grabbed my books, and dashed over there.

After we had been sitting in the cloisters for about half an hour the headmaster [Alexander Ross Wallace (1891-1982) Headmaster 1934-1950] came and told us that all was alright.  The bombs had cut off the electricity, so the siren would not work.  Then I went to inspect the damage.  The last big explosion must have been the five bombs, which dropped exactly in the middle of the Courts.  The Big Schoolroom was damaged the most. It received the blast from the five bombs in the Courts and one small one in the road outside it.

I do not think that I shall ever forget that day, horrible though it was and I expect that it will be passed down from generation to generation, enlarged a little, each time it is told, until it will be said that on Sept. 30th 1940, the Sherborne boys had incendiary bombs falling down their necks, and high explosives falling about two yards away, or something equally fantastic.

Dermot Harold George TYRRELL-LEWIS (1925-1973)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939-July 1943, 6th form, Lister German prize 1942.
Age on 30 September 1940: 15.

‘The Raid on Sherborne’.
During an afternoon Maths period with Mr Jarrett [William Alfred Thomas Jarrett (1879-1961) assistant master 1919-1946, 1947-1948] the siren sounded, and as usual we went downstairs and went on working. In about five minutes time we heard the gradually loudening drone of Huns.  Next came a rather uncanny sensation; the air began to quiver and a few loose objects in the room began to rattle.

We lay down under our desks and waited.  Then came the explosions; the whole place rocked.  The windows collapsed, tinkling, and chunks fell down from the ceiling.  Then, on a near explosion, the door flew open.  The air was filled with dust, and so as not to breathe in too much, I held my handkerchief to my nose.  To crown the show came a screeching noise like a huge rocket seemingly right overhead, to land, much to my relief, somewhere to the right of the building.  Soon after that there was silence, and we stood up and looked out of a hole in the window onto what seemed to us all an extraordinary and an unforgettable scene.

Anthony Charleton VIVIAN (1924-2000)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1937-July 1942; House Prefect; PT Instructor; Corporal in JTC.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

The School Archives include photographs taken after the bombing by A.C. Vivian.

‘Sherborne under Bombs’
I am sure few people have had such narrow escapes from bombs and other aerial missiles as we did on September 30th 1940.  I can only think that it was the hand of God which preserved our lives during those dreadful three minutes.  The episode is still vividly imprinted on my mind, and I doubt if I will ever forget the experience of being bombed – and bombed ‘hard.’

The first indication that anything was about to happen was a distinct thump, which must have been out in the country somewhere; I thought it was a gun until some more following in quick succession, told me they must be bombs.  On deciding this I moved away from the door by the chapel steps in the cloisters, where I was sitting and lay down further inside while everyone else did the same.  All the time the bumps were coming nearer and then the storm was upon us.  Just before the four bombs came down in the Courts, I saw one explode behind the Abbey, throwing debris high above the nave.  It looked very much as though a part of the Abbey had been struck.  The noise was really deafening and I have never heard anything like it before.  At the same time the buildings shook violently as if it would fall in any minute.  I believe only one bomb whistled, but I was only half-conscious and would not be prepared to bet on the subject.

After the noise and shaking had finished I raised my head to find that I was still alive and none the worse for the experience.  I remember the air being filled with the intense smell of fireworks accompanied by clouds of dust aroused by the bombs.  Nothing more occurred, although several more planes went over, each of which made us duck down on the floor again prepared for another dose. The headmaster [Alexander Ross Wallace (1891-1982) Headmaster 1934-1950] provided a welcome diversion; by coming into the cloister in his dressing gown and slippers, since he had been enjoying a bath until the first bomb.  The ‘All Clear’ was eventually blown by wardens and police on their whistles, since the siren had been put out of action the power cables being cut; we went out of the cloisters to find the place in a sad state.  But now everything is as it was before the thunder cloud burst and we have not been reminded of the experience by a repetition of it; and all hope that we shall live peacefully until the joyous day when the Armistice is declared.

Peter Martin Richmond WALTON (b.1923)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1937-March 1942, 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 16.

‘My Impressions of September the 30th’.
On Monday September the 30th I was rather diligently reading Hamlet, when I was rudely awakened from these studies by the siren.  Instead of sheltering in the classroom directly below, I ran across the Courts to the cloisters, as did most of the boys in my house.  For by doing so we can make ourselves more comfortable with the help of cushions from our nearby studies. Also, we can supply ourselves with magazines and books to lessen the boredom which attached one waiting for the all-clear to sound, on one of these periodical bolts for cover.  But on this afternoon we were destined to be suddenly and badly shaken out of our boredom and lethargy.

After about a quarter of an hour in our sanctuary the noise of aeroplanes was heard in the distance but not much notice was taken of them, partly because most people had not heard them above the din of talking and laughter.  But suddenly they came nearer and the laughter died down and then came the unmistakable crump quiet a long way away, but even so all the talking immediately stopped, and the air was charged with a tense feeling of anticipation.  Everyone was then sitting up and listening hard, but after about five seconds after the distant ones, there was a sudden succession of crumps, this time much closer and everyone cowered down and backed away from the doorways.  Then I heard a loud whistling followed by a terrific ‘crump’ which shook even the floor of the cloisters.  This was followed by an even louder shriek and a succession of ‘crumps’ which again shook the floor of the cloisters.  Then the whistlings and following crumps grew less loud, and heads peered out of their covering of cushions and the talking broke out again, but this time in a different tone from the laughter before; but quite soon everyone had recovered the shaken nerves and the atmosphere was normal again, though charged with suppressed excitement.  All this from the happening of the crumps only took four minutes at the most.

John Reginald WHITLEY (1926-2009)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) January 1940-March 1944, Upper 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘September 30th 1940’.
That fateful day started in a manner which might have told us what was going to happen later, for the air raid siren went in the morning, a very unusual thing, at that time.  In the afternoon, I played football on a ground, that was two hours later to be severely hit.

When THE siren went I was doing mathematics.  I had just made some particularly futile mistake and the master who was taking us said to me, “If I thought that bombs were going to drop in the Courts, I would send you out”.  Having said those words, down came the bombs. My first thought was, “Lucky for me that I did not have to go outside.”  I think it was too sudden for anyone to be frightened. Then I got up from under the desk where I was sheltering and proceeded to sharpen a perfectly good pencil.  Why, I cannot imagine to this day. My next thoughts were, “Gosh! That has wrecked my reputation”.  For in the holidays our village [lived at East Preston, near Littlehampton, Sussex] had been subjugated to a little Nazi hate, and in the dormitory, I had been able to spin the most lurid yarns and no one could contradict me; but now everyone had been bombed and knew exactly what it was like.  My recollections for the rest of the day are rather hazy, as all the essential services were out of action, and there was no gas and no electric light.

Ian Peter WINDLE (1925-2011)
Attended Sherborne School (School House) September 1939-1943, Scholar, Upper 6th form.
Age on 30 September 1940: 14.

‘An Air Raid’.
About half past four one Monday afternoon, I was doing French in number four classroom when the sirens went. This was by no means unusual as there used to be frequent alarms at that time. We all went down to the ground floor classrooms and endeavoured to get on with our work there.  Scarcely, however, had we got settled than I heard a kind of rumble and seeing others getting under their desks was not slow to follow their example.  The bombs did not all drop together but there were intervals of a few seconds when nothing happened. The noise, however, increased each time and culminated in a terrific roar.  Then it gradually died away, and it was not long before boys were looking out of the smashed windows to see what damage had been caused.  There were four large craters in the Courts.  The immediate reaction to this was one of joy that there would be no P.T. until they had been filled in.

My feelings during the raid were not those of fear. For I knew that there was nothing that I could do to prevent a bomb falling upon me, except to pray to God that one should not and that there might be no casualties.  This I did and it seemed to take up so much of my emotion that there was no room left for fear or anything else. After the raid my feelings were those of great happiness and thankfulness that no one in the School had been hurt.

When the all-clear was given I went out to view the damage which had been caused to the School.  Beyond a few broken windows this was certainly not great and I marvelled at the miraculous way in which the School had escaped.  But when, two days later, we were allowed into the town, I saw that the damage there was quite considerable and broken glass was to be found almost everywhere.

Many people say that, having had this air raid, we are not likely to get any more bombs here.  But I disagree: for surely the chances are still the same, and I fail to see how ones prospects of being in an air raid are affected by one’s having been in an air raid before.   So let our motto be: “Be prepared”.  And if Sherborne gets another serious air raid may it take it as well as it has taken this one.

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