Wartime reports on Reigate County School for Girls

Research by Geraldine Foy

The Surrey Mirror reported in depth occasions such as school dpeech days. During the war, the visiting dignitaries often commented on the progress of the war, and how the girls could contribute to the war effort. The following extracts are fine illustrations of this.

The first Prize-giving after the commencement of hostilities was in November 1914 at the Market Hall, Redhill. The opening speech by the Chairman, the Rev. F.C. Davies, reflected on the different circumstances under which this ceremony was being held:

“The Chairman said they were meeting under somewhat different circumstances to those of last year. There were two factors operative that enabled them to have that gathering and which they ought to bear in mind. Away on the plains of Flanders, the sons of the Empire were fighting a battle which it was believed would make abortive the attempt of the enemy to invade their native land (applause). Perhaps an ever more important factor was that away in those great grey ships in the waters of the North Sea, their sailors were engaged in perhaps a harder task, for they had to face sudden death in order that those at home might carry on the normal work of their country (applause). People sometimes asked what the Navy was doing and he thought they would agree with him when he said it was doing the greatest work that any Navy had done in the history of the world (applause). Those present that evening were helping to build up characters and therefore in the work they were doing, while remembering in their prayers and every other way, those who were actually engaged in the battles of the country, they would be doing their part in the work of the country and preparing for the part they were to take in their future life (hear, hear).”
Surrey Mirror, November 1914.

 

In his speech at the same event, Sir Jeremiah Colman said

“The advantages of education grew greater and greater with every year that was added to the age of a child. It was very often just at the time when a parent wished to take them from school they were getting most advantage from what they were being taught. Even if it was a little sacrifice to leave them at school, they would be well repaid by the results. There was of course a use and misuse of education. They would all have heard of Germany. That country admirably illustrated as to the misuse of education. He did not think there had been a nation in the world which had paid more attention to the technical education and where students were more industrious and evidenced greater ability. So long as it was used properly it was a great advantage and Germany largely used this resultant ability properly. It gave them trade throughout the world. It gave them knowledge and it gave them the means to provide for their Army, Navy and everything which went to make a nation strong. But they were not content, they had got swollen heads, they became arrogant and they thought they could do anything and no one would stand against them. The result was this dreadful war. It had to be fought out now. What was going to be the result to Germany? Well he thought he knew, and he could ask those present to wait and see. In one nation was the evidence of the uses and misuses of education. He hoped the scholars of the school would have a good education, but he hoped it would not teach them to be swollen headed, arrogant or boastful.”
Surrey Mirror, 11 December 1914.

Miss Anderton, Headmistress, led her pupils by example. The following report from a Council meeting is a typical of her attitude.

“A letter was read from Miss A.B. Anderton, Headmistress of the County School for Girls, suggesting that as it was war time, she should forgo her annual automatic rise in salary this year, and asking that her letter could be forwarded to the County Education Committee.
The Chairman recorded that while they appreciated Miss Anderton’s action, they would probably agree with him that in view of the heavy work load that fell upon her, that the automatic rise in salary should stand ……..proposed a letter to that effect that while the Committee appreciated Miss Anderton’s willing sacrifice, they could not concur with the proposal….. motion carried.”
Meeting of Borough Education Committee, Surrey Mirror, 23 March

Whilst Miss Anderton was keen for girls to assist in the fundraising, she was concerned about their moral welfare, and wrote a letter of caution to the local organising committee in 1916:

“I was especially anxious to come in order to make a plea against the use of young girls in the collection of money. We all, when we think of it, set great store by modesty and simplicity among girls; they are the most charming characteristics that a girl can have; and I am quite sure the street collecting has a strong influence against these. Girls may find that they may go up to and speak with any man or boy, and that the more winning they are, they more money they will get….” One gentleman had declared to her that it was “Just giving them a push in the wrong direction”.

Miss Anderton suggested that the borough should introduce a regulation similar to that sanctioned by the Home Office in 1915 (they had forbidden the collecting of money by girls aged under 16 within six miles of Kings Cross). Thus it was mainly Old Girls who accompanied Miss Anderton.

At their 1917 Empire Day celebration, the girls were addressed by the Mayor of Reigate, Mr. Malcolmson, who advised them:

“……the influence that we, as girls of today and women of the future, may exercise for the benefit of those around us. He reminded us of the present need for economy, and that we, being gifted with the far-penetrating influence peculiar to womanhood, could do much to assist our country in carrying put the strictest economy; and that we must do this now in order that we may neither be defeated by the submarine menace nor any other means our enemies may take to weaken the strength and shatter the glory of the Mother Country and her Colonies.”
He also spoke of the opportunities of service for women in the Empire, and their responsibility, especially at this time, in the management of food and the care of the home”.

School Magazine, June 1918

 

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