Delving deep into the Ramsgate tunnels – known as the town beneath the town – has added an extra dimension of Upton Junior School pupils learning about World War 2.
Year 6 children experienced life in the former 150 year old Victorian railway tunnels that were developed as a safe haven underground for thousands of families at their town was repeatedly bombed in air attacks.
The children heard how the so-called ‘Mad Mayor of Ramsgate’ Alderman Arthur Bloomfield Courtenay Kempe pioneered turning the railway tunnels into a spidery network of air raid shelters that evolved into a community with sleeping and living areas, sanitation, a canteen and even a make-shift entertainments programme.
Following a short information film, the Upton group discovered how the tunnels were designed to mimic the roads above so that people could gauge a rough idea of where they were underground, listened to stories of daily life in the shelter and how the area evolved during the war years and beyond.
Athanasia Papa-Adams, Head of Years 5 and 6, said: “The children were at seeing what the tunnels were actually like during the war – it brought to life their recent studies about Anderson shelters, Morrison shelters and the tunnels in their recent history lessons. It is brilliant to use our locality and local community to help bring learning to life.”
During their topic pupils explored a range of wartime themes including how hostilities began, The Blitz, evacuation of children for safety, food rationing, the roles of people in society during the war, how the war affected Thanet in particular, the Battle of Britain, and what led to the end of the war.
Head of School Darci Arthur added: “We are so lucky to have the opportunity to experience wartime Britain right on our own doorstep with fascinating and important resources including the blitz tunnels and the former Battle of Britain airfield at Manston with its heritage museum and aircraft.
“It is one thing reading about it and watching films, but to venture deep into the tunnels where children and families lived and survived during the war is real hands-on learning.
“Our pupils were really fascinated by what they saw and the stories they heard during the visit – it was a valuable lesson for them and it has enriched their topic work greatly.”
Missed off “Table Shelters”. We had one they were made of steel, and took the place of a kitchen table. After we were bombed my mum said we spent 12 hours inside ours until we were dug out!