St Gregory’s children experience wartime life in Ramsgate Tunnels

St Gregory's children have visited Ramsgate Tunnels

Exploring life in the former 150 year old Victorian railway tunnels that were a safe haven underground as Ramsgate was repeatedly bombed in wartime air attacks has been a thought-provoking learning experience for children at St Gregory’s Catholic Primary in Margate.

As part of their studies into Thanet at War, the Year 5 and 6 group delved deep into network that was known as the town beneath the town.

Children in a living area in the tunnels

Following a short information film, they 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.

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.

Tunnel entrance pass

As part of their learning journey, pupils dressed as evacuees for the day. They made ration books, ID cards and name labels. They also enjoyed learning about popular dances from the wartime era including the jive, the stroll, and the bop.

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.

Evacuees suitcases

Athanasia Papa-Adams, Head of Upper Key Stage 2 at St Gregory’s, said: “The tunnel visit was a fantastic experience that brought their learning to life. It was brilliant to see the children engaging in answering questions showing what they had learnt from the topic and how key facts had been stored in their long term memory.

“They asked thoughtful questions and were awe-struck by the fact that the tunnels existed right in their own area.”

An historic newspaper from 1939 when 500 bombs dropped in five minutes over Ramsgate was brought in to school by one pupil to share with classmates and this was a strong link to their learning from the Ramsgate Tunnels.