Belmont revisited - 80 years on
On Thursday 13th July, we were truly privileged to host two very special visitors to Belmont: Eileen Dobbs (nee Veness) and her sister Dorothea Lee. aged 86 and 88.
Eileen had contacted us with a historic photograph of the children at Belmont preparing for the evacuation which took place on 3rd September 1939. You can see this picture here. She, Dorothea and two of their five sisters were part of the group of children who were evacuated to Chorleywood where they spent the next two years. They then returned to Chiswick and to Belmont.
We were delighted to be able to arrange for Dorothea and Eileen to visit the school and the afternoon was hosted by Miss Coates, Mr Grigg, Miss Kay and the Year 5 children. A small group took our visitors on a tour of the school and heard what Belmont was like in those days: the boys and girls had separate playgrounds and the building now the canteen was where girls learnt home economics (ironing, baking and practising caring for a baby using dolls) and the boys learnt woodwork and metalwork
The ladies then met the whole of Year 5 and shared some of their memories - of Belmont, of evacuation and the war years and of life in Chiswick in the 1930s and 40s. It was wonderful to hear their stories first hand and see the photographs they had brought of their family (in Chiswick and in Chorleywood when their mother came to visit); of the street party at the end of the war and of Dorothea dressed for her first job just after she left Belmont at the age of 14.! We heard how their father, as a decorator, not only worked during the war painting camouflage on aircraft hangars but also wallpapered the family's Anderson shelter! After the interview, Year 5 sang to our visitors who joined them for a rendition of "White Cliffs of Dover" - a very special moment for us all.
We enjoyed a tea party together and Ramona Poole, Debbie Osborne, Emma Gordon and Katherine Mertikian, who have been kindly cataloguing the school archives this year, came to join us. They shared with Eileen and Dorothea class photos featuring them and other members of their family, as well as a first hand account of the evacuation written by Mrs Jarvis who was the teacher of Class 1 at the time. This prompted even more memories!
This class photo from 1935 or 36 has Eileen second row, second from right.
We are immensely grateful to Eileen's son, Martin and Dorothea's grandson, Jonathan for bringing them over from Poole and Romford where they live now. Thanks are also due to Gordon Russell for recording this event for us so that we will be able to remember it and the stories as part of Belmont's history.
Other photos will follow shortly.