I used to wonder what those rooms had been used for during the war. Long after leaving the school, I discovered that the hostel was specifically built to accommodate Bevin Boys – among them David Day, who in 1993 published an account of his time there, The Bevin Boy.
My classrooms had been a ‘welfare block’ for David Day:
The walls were painted in bright colours and the layout resembled that of a seaside holiday camp. Among its amenities were a shop, a cinema, a games room, a library, a vast dining hall and a well-upholstered lounge.
A lot more than I had imagined.
The hostel didn’t just provide my school with classroom. It also provided me with a home.
The Bevin Boys slept in neighbouring Nissen huts – 12 to a hut. After the war, as they went home, the Nissen huts became empty. When people in war-ravaged Coventry learnt of this, they began moving in. This was in 1946 – the year my parents got married and were in need of a home themselves. My father went to investigate.
He dimly remembered the occupation being organised by two city councillors. He was told that, if he wanted a hut, he had to place an item of furniture inside the one he wanted, to claim it. On learning this, he went straight away to his parents’ home, half a mile away, and asked his mother for the loan of a chair so he could claim his hut.
My grandmother told him, ‘Take two – get one for Gladys!’ And that’s exactly what he did.
I was born in January following my parents’ moving in. The Nissen hut was therefore my very first home. But by the time I attended the school, it had gone – along with all the others.
By Paul Buttle, Cumbria – Taken from The Oldie Spring 2021