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How Bootham School built on wartime bombing experience
8:37am Friday 11th May 2012 in History articles
A FORMER Bootham School pupil has recalled how the wartime Baedeker raid destroyed part of the building.
The school’s Lodge, as it was then known, was one of about 9,500 York buildings to be damaged or destroyed during the German bombings on April 29, 1942.
The school had broken up for the Easter holidays so no one was hurt.
Professor John Caldwell joined the then all boys’ school in 1940 and was a member of its cricket team.
He said: “During the war I remember being in bedroom six as it was then known, with three other boys.
“Outside the window there was access to a flat roof which senior boys used to patrol when on ‘fire watch’ looking out for German bombing raids.
“One night, a boy called John was snoring so loudly none of us could get any sleep and nobody could wake him, so the two senior boys in the room picked up the mattress and carried it, together with the still snoring John, out of the window and laid him out on the roof. He got a bit of a surprise when he woke up next morning.”
After the bombings destroyed the Lodge and bedrooms, what stuck with him the most was the way the school responded under its headmaster, Donald Gray.
“There was no wringing of hands or recriminations over what might have been.
“Instead our wonderful headmaster at the time told the school that we had been presented with an opportunity to learn the new and invaluable skill of bricklaying.
“Senior prefects were detailed to clean the bricks from the bomb-damaged building, and the boys were then taught the various techniques of how to handle a trowel and how to lay a course of bricks,” he said.
“Over the succeeding months a handsome new wall was constructed which masked the site of the destroyed building, and to this day I can still lay a mean course of bricks.”
Prof Caldwell’s memories have been recorded as part of the school’s Oral History Project, which invites former pupils to recount their memories and commemorate the bombings.