Miss Bass Teaching at Benfleet School 1943 -1947

School Pictures 1947

Miss Bass now Mrs Cynthia Williams
Teacher at Benfleet Junior School from 1943 – 1964

Miss Bass came straight from College to Benfleet Junior School in 1943 when the shortages of war were starting to be felt.  Paper was in short supply and children’s painting would be done on old newspapers with powder paint.  Pencils had to be about an inch long before you could get a new one.

Miss Bass’s classes had about 40 children and were housed in the old library across the High Road, the present site of the new library.  The air raid shelter for the school was by the new building at the bottom of the playground by the brook.

“When the air raid warning sounded I had to get my class out of the hut across the road to the playground.  The County Council wanted to know how long it took to get the last child into the shelter.  It was a ridiculously long time. On one occasion we were crossing the road when the plane went over.  The Council wanted to reduce the time taken, but it never happened.   I don’t know how much protection the air raid shelter would have given the children as you could pull bricks out of the wall.”

At this time there was an ack-ack battery near Cemetery Corner.

Mrs Williams recalls wartime as an exciting time, because there was always something happening. HMS Westcliff was a shore base in Southend, this restricted access to the sea front. All the roads were lined with lorries and tanks in the run up to D Day.  Southend was a restricted area and Special Constables would inspect your identification at the Southend Boundary by the Salvation Army Colony and of course we had to carry gas masks.

Benfleet School Pupils around 1947. From left to right centre rear row Sam McKay, Middle row 2nd from left June La Roche, ? Gates, ?, John Baker, Front row Iris Nicholls, Janet Layell, 5th from left Sheila Frith, 6th Jean Howard.
From the collection of Miss Bass, now Mrs Williams
South Benfleet County Junior School 1947. Back row from left to right, 3rd Michael French, 6th Janet Lazell, 7th Hilda Nelson, 8th Ruth Edwards, far right ? Jiggins. Centre row Male adult with dark hair Mr Wallace woodwork teacher, apparently he had a size 11 slipper when required for naughty boys, right of him Joan Baker.
From the collection of Miss Bass, now Mrs Williams

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  • I was at south benfleet primary school in 1947. My birthday is in august 1941 and so I was probably in year 1 or 2. If I am in the picture I imagine it would be in the front row but too small to identify. I remember mr Woods the head, a very nice man as far as I remember. Most of the women teachers were very strict; particularly frightening for a small only child from a very protective family.
    I was an academic disaster for the first few years but was saved by the 11 + as I passed and went to Westcliffe High, but only for one term as my father got a job in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk and I transferred to the grammar there.
    In spite of very iffy early academic achievements, including the first four years in Great Yarmouth, I managed to get to university obtain a PhD and end up as a senior academic at the Queen’s University of Belfast. Later in life I discovered that I was dyslectic; hopefully the lack of diagnosis would be rare today. This might encourage others who are not doing too well.

    By Dr Brian Walker (17/05/2021)

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