Evacuation of Girls' School: London Trams (September 1939)


Figure 1.--British children were primarily evacuated by train, but busses and trams were also used. We think this was primarily to get the children to the train stations. Trams like the ones here could only be used to get to train stations. This photograph is unidentified, but we think it was taken during the September 1939 evacuatiions. We know it was London because these are London Transport trams. Notice the gas mask boxes which tell us that it is September 1939. The girls presumably assembled at their school which is either located to the left or a short distance away. The trams are identified as "Special Car" on the front marquee, rather than their normal routes. The uniforms and age of the girls tell us that it is a private girls school or a grammar (selective secondary) school--the Charles Edward Brooke (girls') School. Notice the one younger girl. She may be going with her big sister. Source: London Transport Museum.

British children were primarily evacuated by train, but busses and trams were also used. We think the busses were primarily to get the children to the train stations. Trams like the ones here could only be used to get to train stations. This photograph is unidentified, but we think it was taken during the September 1939 evacuatiions. We know it was London because these are London Transport trams. Notice the gas mask boxes which tells us that it was September 1939. The girls presumably assembled at their school which may be located to the left, or perhaps they had to march a bit. Trams unlike busses could not change their routes. The trams are identified as "Special Car" on the front marquee, rather than their normal routes. If you know to look for, you can see an underlined 'London Transport' logo on the side of the trams. The London Transport Museum tell us that the girls were from the Charles Edward Brooke (girls school) and are boarding trams in Camberwell New Road. The uniform and age of the girls tells us that it was a private girls school or a grammar (selective secondary) school. Notice the one younger girl. She may be going with her big sister, although we are not sure. We know that the trams were headed to Waterloo Station. Waterloo is a central London station very close to the Thames bend. We do not know where the trains these girls boarded was headed from Waterloo. As the children were dispersed into the countryside, there was an effort made to keep the children from their schools along with some of the teachers togther.

A British reader writes, "I am trying to identify where this might be in London. The trams are definitely London Transport -- so London is right. You may notice there are no overhead wires for the trams to pick up the electricity. It is provided by the third rail in the centre. This means it is mostly likely central London. I remember as a child going to London by tram. A point of excitement was the change over from the overhead power source to the third rail. The conductor would unhitch the over head arm with a long pole and lower it to a hook on the back of the roof. Then the tram would be hitched to the underground power source. I am not sure how the current was picked up. I believe there was some sort of trolley under the third rail. It needed to be isolated from inquisitive small boys poking sticks etc. in the slot in the road. This took place in Holloway. I think third rail trams only operated in Central London where overhead wires would be a hazard. One special excitement would be perhaps in a high wind, when the conductor would loose control of the arm and it would spring into the air, and perhaps short circuit by touching the main wire supports. There would be a dramatic 'firework' display. Nostalgia is not what it used to be!"






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Created: 7:21 AM 8/14/2011
Last updated: 7:22 AM 8/14/2011