The War Years 1936 – 1945

The Pepperpot Godalming 1936
Dr T E Page, Chairman of the School Governors
Mr S C Nunn, Headmaster 1930-1936
Mr W M Wigfield, Headmaster 1936-1961
Lady Agnes Jekyll
Lady Agnes & Sir Herbert Jekyll
Miss W E Wilkinson, Assistant Headmistress

During the next few years the school continued to grow. In 1935 they celebrated the Silver Jubilee of King Edward VII and although only five years old, saw the first Annual Dinner of the Old Godhelmians’ Association which is still going strong today. In that same year Dr T E Page, Classical Scholar and Educationalist and one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the school died. He was a sad loss to the school and a collection in his memory funded a richly carved memorial desk which can still be seen in the Hall today.

1936 saw both a new king, Edward VIII and a new Headmaster. Mr Nunn moved on to a new school and was replaced by Mr W M Wigfield. King Edward VIII then abdicated and was followed by King George VI.

On 28th January 1937, Lady Agnes Jekyll “…fairy godmother” to the school, died at the age of 86. Over the years Lady Jekyll had been a strong supporter and governor of the school, donating many gifts of equipment, books and most importantly her time. She also was a very sad loss to the school.

Miss Wilkinson Assistant Senior Mistress left the school in 1937 and among her leaving gifts were a bookcase and a kitten!

War was fast approaching and in 1939 9 trench shelters were dug in the school grounds to accommodate 50 people each in the event of air raids. In the same year the school was used as a dispersal centre for evacuees. The numbers in the school rose dramatically to accommodate 50 unofficial evacuees and also an entire new school. The 450 boy pupils of Sir Walter St John School of Battersea were billeted in Godalming and were to be taught at the County School. A two shift system had to be adopted for this to work: the County School children being taught for one half of the day and the ‘Sinjuns’ for the other.

During the war some members of staff left to serve in the forces and several old and existing pupils of the school also joined up. Air raid warnings were frequent, particularly in the summer of 1940 and the children’s education was disrupted by broken nights, curfews and the blackout. However the life of the school went on and when the war ended in 1945 most of the servicemen and women returned.

The Memorial Triptych

Sadly 16 members of the school lost their lives in the conflict, both in action and as prisoners of war and it was felt that their bravery and service to their country should be commemorated in some permanent way. A memorial fund was started and on 15th November 1947 at a special ceremony the Bishop of Guildford dedicated an oak plaque in the form of a triptych to those Old Godhelmians who had lost their lives in the war. The plaque bore the names of the sixteen young men who had died, followed by the words; “ardua secuti attigerunt æterna” – ‘They followed the path of duty, they have attained immortality’. It was hung in the entrance hall of the school where it remains today. Each year the plaque is opened for Remembrance Day when a minute’s silence is still observed.

Poignant letters written from some of these young men to their teachers at the school still exist in the school archives

The Memorial Pavilion

The rest of the memorial fund was later used to help build the Sports Pavilion in 1962.