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St Joseph's School in two world wars


F.C.J. Annals 1914

‘There was no sound of carol singing or other music in the streets, for the shades of death and suffering lay over Hartlepools. Heart rending details still reach us’.

‘To our great grief we heard that one of our little ones had been killed. When her house was struck by a shell, she and her sister aged four, escaped from the Mother and ran into the street, only to meet her death…. The younger one said: ‘Maggie’s leg fell off – she then sat down and went to sleep, and opened her eyes and died….A child from the infant’s school was so badly injured that her arm had to be amputated in the workhouse hospital.

On the morning of the 18th there was a panic caused through a false report that the Germans were again upon us. The people, terrified by the experiences of the 16th, fled from their homes wild with fear, On our way to school we met women half clothed, unwashed, trailing their children after them and carrying such of their belongings as they could pick up. It took some hours to reassure and calm them and to prevail upon them to return to their homes; but there was no more school after that. We closed for the holidays and returned on the following Monday to put all in order. Great was our astonishment on finding the playground full of children. On being asked what brought them back: The Goose, Mother, the Party! They called out. Not to disappoint them we raffled the goose which fell to the lot of a poor fatherless child. We postponed the party till after the return’.

1915 ‘Attendance is poor after the bombardment. School starts at 9.30 in case there is another attack. Attendance officers’ weekly report sometimes says ‘left town’, ‘scared to death’ ‘suffering from bombarditis’. Tea party encouraged nearly all to return! ‘There is scarcely a child without someone in the firing line.’‘No meetings of the Guild of St. Agnes in the evenings as the unlit streets are unsafe’.

There was still time for celebration even in the darkest days of war. ‘Empire day celebrated with flags and patriotic songs. One passer by said’ I have been round several schools but yours beats them all’.’  ( F.C.J. Annals 1915) 

Mr. W. Thomas left the school in 1915 to join the Navy.

The war provided the opportunity for some recycling 1916 style!!  The school staff and children were asked to do some government work for the soldiers.‘O gruesome thought’ the staff and children of the school had been asked to make sacks from old dirty sacks of different sizes that would be filled with chaff and used for bayonet practice. ‘Of course all other work had to be set aside and for some days the school not only looked but smelt like a rag warehouse. There were sacks to the right of us and sacks to the left all day long…Of course the children were delighted and never attended so well or so early….One child pricked her finger and blood poisoning ensued but with no serious results.’ ’   ( F.C.J. Annals 1916) 

In a raid ‘one of the teachers injured and everything in her house destroyed except a picture of St. Anthony on the wall’.

‘Through out the year the older girls worked hard knitting scarves socks and mittens, one of the parents said ‘what with this knitting we can’t get the children to do nothing else’. Each month the children received honourable mention in the Mail and 2 of the teachers were presented with brooches with the letters WW (War work) – making head bandages for the VAD and lunch bags for the soldiers rations’. 

14th, 15th and 18th of March 1918

‘…Air raid last night. Bomb fell near the school and shattered all windows at East end of the school. Not possible to carry on this morning.’

‘…Guard of soldiers in one of the rooms to protect the property’.

‘Found school in use as military billet for soldiers guarding the houses near…classes compressed into four rooms and work proceeds’.

The end of the War was a cause for great rejoicing. In November 1918, all the ‘Picture Halls (were) open free to children every afternoon during the week in honour of the conclusion of the war. Only 82 children attended school that week’.  There were Peace Teas, parades and celebrations throughout the town.

In 1919, ‘Mr. Thomas Connolly returned after three years army service. He obtained a commission and was badly wounded in the ankle but is now happily recovered.’ There is no mention of Mr. Thomas who joined the Navy in 1915.

In 1921 there  must have been great sadness mingled with pride as a memorial tablet was unveiled in honour of ‘102 boys of St. Joseph’s who fell in the Great War’.


 Second World War

June 20th 1940 St. Joseph’s Boys’ school log book

‘During the night an air raid took place. A bomb dropped in Whitby St., close to the east end of the Boys Dept., caused very considerable damage to the whole building , so that it is most improbable that the present buildings will ever be used again.

After reporting the extent of the damage to the Education Offices, the teachers proceeded to salvage as much as possible. We were able to remove from the Headmaster’s room, which was completely wrecked, all the permanent records, Log Book, Admission Registers etc. etc.

June 21st and 22nd

Work of salvage continued – saving as much as possible of the perishable stock. Rain on June 21st damaged much of stock.

‘On the night of 19th June 1940, 12. 10 Am., six high-explosive bombs were dropped in the streets and on the houses in the neighbourhood of St. Joseph’s school. The school was shattered, window panes blown in etc. It was impossible to use the school. For one week the teachers attended daily, doing salvage work under very difficult conditions….after about a fortnight, classes were held in the Corporation Hall, Pilot St.; The Guides Hall, Osborne St.; Miss Egglestone’s, Surtees St.,  and two classrooms in the Convent Grounds. (St. Joseph’s girl’s school log book)

In 1940 Mr. Coleman, Mr. Beldon and Mr. Timlin were called up for military service.

Many of the children had Fathers fighting around the globe and had not seen them for years. The F.C.J. Annals of 1944 tell a sad tale. ‘One of the priests present at the Christmas party, a Chaplain to the Forces and a former curate of St. Joseph’s Parish, was claimed by several of the “fives” and “sixes” --- “He’s my daddy”.  “No, he’s not, he’s mine”, and they crowded round him, attracted by the uniform which they had perhaps seen their daddy wear.  It was very pathetic: many of the children have no remembrance of their father.’

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