Evacuation

Thank you plaque placed in Brockenhurst Village Hall August 2017

On Tuesday 22nd August 2017, the Association placed a plaque in the Brockenhurst Village Hall expressing gratitude to the people of Brockenhurst, the New Forest communities and the County High School for everything that they did to accommodate and care for the pupils and staff of the, then, Southern Secondary School (renamed as the Southern Grammar School for Boys, Portsmouth in 1946) who were evacuated between 1939 and 1944.

Martyn Robinson, Chairman of the Association, gave an introduction touching on the history of the school and the events during the evacuation (details can be seen in the School section of this website and by reading below. A response was given by Mike Snell former Principal of Brockenhurst College who were the successor tenants of the County High School premises. He said that the buildings had been demolished only in the last couple of years and had been adjacent to the Village Hall which meant that the siting of the Association's plaque in the Hall was apposite.

Bruce Read, from the village, and former Chairman of the Brockenhurst Village Hall Trust, then related the story about the village's wartime bakery store, called "Purkess" (Bruce being a relative of the owners at that time). The family had taken in two evacuees, although Bruce could not recall their names. There was accommodation above the store with his family in the flat at the rear of the building and the evacuees in the front. On Wednesday 13th August 1940, a German bomber discarded its bombs as it flew over Brockenhurst and one fell on the store completely destroying the front of the building although the rear was left intact. His family, who were present in their flat, were unharmed and, by a stroke of extreme good fortune, the evacuees had returned home to see their parents and were, therefore, also safe. One can imagine that all will have realised that they led charmed lives!

The unveiling of the plaque was performed by Ian Owen (aged 89) and the oldest evacuee in attendance. He had travelled down from the Lake District with his son to be present - a wonderful tribute in its own right. Other evacuees who attended were Gordon Blackman, Peter Bolt, Biff Maber, Colin Peters and Leslie Parkhurst. Also in attendance was the daughter of former Deputy Headmaster of the Southern Grammar, Stan Davies who, together with his wife, ran the Briars Hostel in Brockenhurst (see the article at the top of this page).

About 35 were present at the event - all of whom enjoyed refreshments after the unveiling. Heartfelt recollections of the evacuation years and the kindness of the school, the residents of Brockenhurst and the New Forest communities were heard in abundance.