Rewind the clock to 1941, a crisp autumn morning with the leaves falling in Woodford Green, children waiting in the playground for the bell to sound, the signal that school is about to start.
Fast Forward to 2018 and pupils at Woodford Green Prep School are still following a similar routine, albeit without the shadow of war looming. Today they welcomed two very special alumni when Shirley Harrison a former journalist and published author of the internationally best selling The Diary of Jack the Ripper and Maureen Hoskins, former Mayor of Redbridge returned after 77 years.
It was a special journey down memory lane. Although much of the school has been modernised beyond recognition, both ladies were transported back to their school days and some wonderful memories were shared. Maureen even managed to identify herself in a photograph hanging in the School gallery.
The visit included tea in the Headmaster’s office, a tour of the grounds and a meeting with School Council. No School visit would be complete without a school dinner, although both ladies enjoyed the lemon sponge they declined the custard, some school experiences are best not revisited.
The School Council were intrigued to hear what the school was like in the 1940s. The children were surprised to learn that one of Shirley’s favourite lessons was listening to the radio programme “How Things Began”. Another question asked was, “what was it like being at WGPS during the war?” The ladies said they found the experience interesting rather than frightening, although they were sure their parents didn’t share this feeling. “We used to pick up sharpnel on the way to School and compare who had found the largest piece”. On one occasion an air raid siren sounded on the walk to School, “We did as we were told and headed for the nearest bunker, once the bombing stopped we discovered the Church that formerly stood next to the School had been hit and destroyed.”
Shirley recalled she was a Trojan (the name given to one of the school houses which is still in use today). This was met with cheers from the Trojan’s on the School Council, and disappointment from the Greeks and Romans. Some rivalries never cease.
Woodford Green Preparatory recently launched its alumni, Jonathan Wadge, Headmaster, stated “It's been so interesting to uncover the history and memories of life at WGPS through the alumni who have joined. We were delighted to be contact by Shirley and Maureen and couldn’t miss this opportunity to invite them back and hear first hand about WGPS in the 1940s. It is an inspiration for the children to meet two alumni who have gone on to be so successful”.
The children had the opportunity to see Maureen’s Mayor badge close up and Shirley kindly donated signed copies of her books to the School library.
Both ladies are truly inspirational and we are very proud they are part of the WGPS story. The School has clearly played an important part in their formative years, when asked about forgotten memories, Shirley responded “Memories from long ago are much more vivid, you can easily forget a shopping list, but you never forget your childhood”.