In January 1946 I became a pupil at a Grammar School in London. In June of that year, when I was fifteen, we had to write about a typical winter’s day in the war for English Homework. Here is what I wrote:
A typical winter’s day in camp
For the boys of my age the day usually began with half an hour’s pumping. This was not at all strenuous but rather a nuisance if it meant getting up early and, unless a pair of good gloves were available, one’s fingers were liable to get extremely cold. Still it got half the work over for the day. When the pumper returned from his work, he would usually find a fire lit. If not, the trouble would probably be due to bad coal, damp wood or insufficient paper. But nevertheless the fire was always ablaze by breakfast.
Breakfast, consisting of cereal if it was to be had and some bread with tea or hot water, was served out at two mass kitchens where we queued up and sat at crude but comparatively new tables.
Then half an hour after breakfast school commenced. We sat on benches…five to a bench. There were three benches in the middle of a dormitory where nine of us slept. The benches were all right (sic) except when it came to Latin when a grammar book, text book and exercise book were needed, it being rather awkward to get all three in a convenient position. It was not until the latter period of camp that school was resumed in the afternoon but even at that it was only one or two lessons.
But by this time the fire would probably be out or very low but still the heat would remain for some hours.
At about half past three someone would fetch the coal for the room. Once a week the turn would come around for the distribution of wood when it was collected with the coal. This supply usually did not last the week and more had to be scrounged around the camp. The coal was sifted and the little lump remaining was used for the next day’s lighting…the dust made into coal balls.
Then until supper we played hockey on a field about twice the size of a tennis court. The sticks varied from some that were as good as new to some that had to be mended after every other game. For those in the football and hockey leagues, there would be a game about twice a week on the ball field.
After supper we did our homework some of which was supervised. At any time from after school until half past nine, we had to do another half hour’s pumping.
For the rest of the evening we played games or sat around on beds under dismal lights discussing the masters or any topic that cropped up. Because of the bad lights making reading a strain on the eyes, we had to go to bed early.
While we were going to bed, the person who’s (sic) turn it was to light the fire on the following day, would clear out the ashes and lay it ready to light. Some evenings were given up to entertainments.