Those pitched into the education system just before and during the Second World War could have done little better than Miss Cranmer’s class at The Manor School, Didcot.

Miss Cranmer was a kindly soul with a slow smile and much patience.

There were coloured pictures around the walls and each afternoon we would obediently fold our arms on our table, put our heads down – and sleep.

I remember no pressure to learn academically but we did learn to lose our fears.

Having left Miss Faraday and Miss East behind us, we arrived at Miss Randall’s class.

By now the nation was at war and we sang patriotic songs (‘There’ll always be an England’ and ‘Old Father Thames’), and at least once a week we were all called to the front where, hands on hips, we danced the Keelrow (Keel Row?).

If this was to give us exercise it was superfluous because we found we got enough by swinging on the beams in ‘the shed’ or playing on ‘the mounds’ just across Manor Road.

Those mounds (long since built on – but weren’t they common land?), with their bushes, stunted trees and much used-tracks seemed to us like a new land, although they were, in fact, not very spacious.

But they were a joy to boys growing up and discovering energy, interest and imagination.

I can’t remember girls there, and in any case...

About then, the Government issued an appeal (aimed at school children) for books for the servicemen and women: collect so many and one received a Corporal’s badge.

So many more and one earned promotion to Sergeant.

It was possible to rise to the rank of Field Marshal and so families and friends were harried for books for this worthy cause.

Years later it struck me that the Government was really after waste paper and had hit upon a clever way of getting it.

I remember two ‘dressing up’ days at The Manor.

One was the June Queen festival which seemed to involve almost the whole school.

I recall little except that one year I was the boy Bishop (and it may just be that in the photograph accompanying this piece..i).

The other was Empire Day on which we were encouraged to wear the uniform of any youth organisation to which we belonged.

As I was a scout (with found memories of ‘Skip’ Perkins, Youlbury camps, St. George’s Day parades, trouble with knots) and the SJAB (‘Pop’ Martin, uniformed trips with Didcot Town FC when any injury would have left me useless, and getting it wrong when questioned by Dr. Winifred Davidson) I managed two in one day.

The school, too, joined in with the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign and from time to time we found ourselves in the school gardens with a few tools.

Quite what we achieved I know not but, at least, we felt useful.

I could write of Miss Williams, ‘Pop’ Harris (and other teachers), mirrors on autumn mornings diversions on the way home, school and British Restaurant dinners, and much more for the Manor School in war time was not the worst place to be.