GALLERY: 70 years after returning home to London, WWII evacuees back in Wisbech for school’s Remembrance service

16:37 09 November 2012

Wisbech Grammar School remembrance,  John Robinson and Harry Spinks look at the commemorative plaque. A Shelter from the storm.

Wisbech Grammar School remembrance, John Robinson and Harry Spinks look at the commemorative plaque. A Shelter from the storm.

Archant

TWO schoolboys who were evacuated from London to Fenland at the beginning of the Second World War returned to their former school today for the first time in 70 years.

John Robinson and Harry Spinks were invited to take part in Wisbech Grammar School’s Remembrance Day service to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their return to the Old Stationers School in Hornsey, London.

Mr Robinson attended Wisbech Grammar School from 1939-42 and Celia, his wife, was a pupil at the girls school.

He said: “Things were very different up here. We would cycle 90 miles back to London in the holidays but I enjoyed the freedom of being away from close parental control.”

The 87-year-old has vivid recollections of life during the war and the part he played in the war effort.

He said: “Old bridges were mined in case of invasion. I can remember a bomb was dropped that fell on the Onyx theatre by the canal.

“We were sent into the fields to pick gooseberries, I was a runner for the ARP Wardens and took collection boxes for charity.”

Mr Spinks said how, despite the immense hardship and uncertainty of the time, morale never wavered.

He said: “I can’t remember anyone who thought we were going to lose. We just had to get on with it.

The 88-year-old was very complimentary of his time spent in Wisbech living with a Salvation Army family.

He said: “We were very well looked after here and most of the boys who came here finished up in the armed forces.”

Wreaths were laid at the service for former pupils Chris Dockerty and Alex Hawkins who were killed in the line of duty while serving in the armed forces.

Lance Corporal Alex Hawkins was killed in an explosion in the Helmand Province on July 25 2007 while Major Chris Dockerty died in a Chinook helicopter crash on the Mull of Kintyre on June 2 1994.

Plaques at the school recognise their bravery and sacrifice.

John and Jan Dockerty, Chris’s parents, and his sister Debra were present at the service.

They acknowledged Remembrance Day is a particularly poignant time for the family and expressed her gratitude to Wisbech Grammar School for getting in touch with them at the end of last year.

Mrs Dockerty said: “Remembrance Day is very special. We are very proud and always very sad at this time of year.

“We must thank the headmaster for arranging to have this plaque made. The suggestion came out of the blue and we think it is a wonderful idea.”

Mr Dockerty echoed his wife’s sentiments about the school which all four of his children attended.

He said: “We feel very honoured that the school has recognised Chris gave his life in tragic circumstances in the service of his country.

“All his achievements in later life owed everything to the tuition he received at this school.”

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Armed Forces day in Wisbech was well supported on Sunday in Wisbech Market Place, with lots of organisations marking the day with respect, and with a great deal of voluntary effort that was lost on Wisbech Town Council.

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I was born and bred in the Wisbech area and spent the first 18 years on my life living in Friday Bridge - educated at Friday Bridge junior school- then on to the now re-badged Queen’s School for boys - after spending a couple of years in London - I have been living in Sydney Australia for the past 43 years.

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I read your article with regards to Councillor Lisa Duffy working with the police in Wisbech and her views on immigration.

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