Bringing wartime back to life

Members of Poulton Old People's Centre are visited by pupils from st John's Primary School for VE Day celebrations.  Charlie Green talks to Riley Harrison.

Members of Poulton Old People's Centre are visited by pupils from st John's Primary School for VE Day celebrations. Charlie Green talks to Riley Harrison.

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Schoolchildren were given a real picture of what the past was like as they met and interviewed those who lived through the Second World War.

The pupils from St John’s Catholic Primary School, Poulton, visited Poulton Old People’s Centre ahead of VE Day celebrations, to learn about what life was like growing up during wartime.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of VE Day, commemorating the end of the Second World War in Europe.

The Year Five class had already been learning about the home front, women’s role in the conflict and centenary celebrations of the First World War and had the chance to quiz the residents on their childhoods and what it was like to see active service.

Year Five teacher Michael Parkinson said: “The children wanted to know what it was like to grow up during a war, what games did they play and what were their rations.

“They loved the fact that some experiences were so alien yet they’d play the same games the children do now.

“The children were just enthralled by the stories.”

The children met with heroes of the war, including Charlie Green, who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his time serving as an air force gunner and part of Bomber Command.

While former merchant seaman John Bathe told the youngsters about the part the ‘other’ navy played, and Stanley Bousfield told of being part of the D-Day landings as he served in the Royal Navy.

Mr Parkinson added: “And they particularly loved the chance to hold and feel some of the medals.

“I’ve never seen the children so enthusiastic, it was amazing.”

The nine- and 10-year-olds also met women who played crucial roles in the home front.

Cath Whiting nursed wounded soldiers in Cumbria, including those evacuated from Dunkirk while Paula Ross made parts for aircraft, Ada Doddon made uniforms for the armed forces.

They also heard some of the tragic stories of war too - the centre’s chairman Ethel Brookes never knew her father as he was killed in conflict.

The teacher added: “We were trying to get across to the children it was a privilege to meet with people affected by the war. They’ve learned they’re lucky to grow up in relative peace.”

Phil Howarth, a committee member for the centre, said: “We’re pleased that today’s youngsters are keen to listen to and learn from this generation.”

Today they will join their Year Six peers for a special tea dance celebration, led by Blackpool Community Dance Group, to mark the anniversary. And at Poulton Old People’s Centre, off Queensway, there will be music from the 1940s in the centre, decorated in celebratory bunting to mark the 70th anniversary.

> Flags, celebrations and victory speeches – look back at VE Day in Lost Archives, in today’s Gazette