THE nuns of York's Bar Convent took on many roles during the Second World War.

Some were teachers, others nurses - and several even trained as wartime 'firewatchers'.

An entry in the Convent diary records how that came to happen.

"We have been asked by the Head ARP (Air Raid Precautions warden) to form a group of Fire Watchers to 'stand by' the male watchers and give help when needed," the diary says.

"A group of six nuns, all staff, must remain dressed every night and ready for action. Five of these may lie down, but one must sit up and watch."

York Press: Wartime pupils at the Bar Convent school making rugs for the Red Cross. Picture: Bar Covent

Of the five nuns who died during the York Blitz on the night of April 29, 1942 - Sister Agnes, Sister Vincent, Sister Gerrard, Sister Brendan and Sister Patricia - no fewer than four were firewatchers. All five, it is said, died trying to save the lives of others after the convent was bombed.

A new exhibition opening at the Bar Convent on Friday seeks to commemorate these five brave women. But it also aims to do more - to paint a picture of what life was like for them at the Convent during and after the war.

There are no photographs that can definitively be identified as being of the five women, sadly.

But panels created for the exhibition provide what details of their lives and work that we do know.

York Press: The damaged Bar Convent after the air raid of April 29, 1942

The centrepiece of the exhibition is the singed and partly burned-away Convent diary.

It was typical of the 'waste not, want not' attitude of the nuns that, when they found the diary in the rubble after the the Convent was hit by a bomb on April 29, 1942, they simply dusted it down and carried on using it.

Volunteers have been painstakingly transcribing the diary - and it, and the Convent's school magazine, form the basis of many of the exhibition's panels.

The quiet, cheerful stoicism and determination to carry on shines through.

When war was declared in September 1939, for example, an entry in the school magazine noted that: 'we were proud to be the only school in York that started at the appointed time thanks to the protection afforded by the gas-proof cellars'.

York Press: A page from the damaged wartime Bar Convent diary

As early as October 1939, an entry in the diary recorded that 'the Yellow Warning of an air raid was given, but then players continued their (netball) game'.

The east wing of the Convent was totally destroyed in the raid of April 29, 1942 - by far the worst of the 11 air raids on the city throughout the war.

However, most of the school classrooms escaped damage, and pupils were back at school by May 6. An entry in the school magazine noted: "The troubles consequent on the air-raid in April have made this a somewhat difficult school year."

The Baedeker Raids - 80 Years On opens at the Bar Convent on Friday and will run until November. Entry included in price of admission.