Colley Lane School Air Raid Shelter
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The Second World War air raid shelter at Colley Lane Primary School narrowly avoided the fate of the rest of the old school when, in 2002, the demolition contractors moved in.
Thanks to the intervention of Deputy Head Teacher Janet Ingram it was saved from the same fate as the main school buildings. Today the new school is overlooked by the air raid shelter, which has been extensively renovated as part of the Cradley Heritage Project.
The old brick and concrete shelter has been cleaned out and provided with a new roof and new doors. In its new life it will allow school children to experience what it was like, 70 years ago, to spend time in the doom and gloom avoiding bombs from the air.
On Remembrance Day 2010 the school held the Opening Ceremony to celebrate the shelter development. The shelter was opened by Muriel Bennett, President of the Cradley Then & Now Group and the oldest (at 94 years) living former pupil of Colley Lane School. In declaring the shelter open, Muriel expressed her wish that the shelter would never again be used for its original purpose.
The ceremony was preceded by a school assembly with invited guests comprising a performance led by Dudley Performing Arts, a 1940s dance, a reading of evacuee memories and songs including the Vera Lyn classics We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover.
Vera Lynn, "The Forces' Sweetheart"
Vera Lynn, born Vera Margaret Welch on 20 March, 1917 in East Ham, London, began singing at the age of seven. Later she adopted her grandmother's maiden name Lynn as her stage name. Her career flourished during World War II, when she was nicknamed "The Forces' Sweetheart".
In 1940 she began her own radio series, "Sincerely Yours", sending messages to British troops and performing the songs most requested to her by soldiers stationed abroad. She went into hospitals to interview new mothers and send messages to their husbands overseas. She toured Burma and gave outdoor concerts for soldiers.
Vera Lynn is best known for the songs "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover". Her life and work has been celebrated by many people in many different ways. Pink Floyd wrote a song called Vera for their 1979 album The Wall; in the film based on the album, a Christmas song The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot by Vera Lynn is played over the opening credits. Pink Floyd also recorded a live version of The Wall called Is There Anybody Out There? The Wall Live 1980-81, where before the concert starts, Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again can be heard in the background. Vera recorded the song Don't You Remember When in 1975, featuring tambourine by ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. In the film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Bomb, her song We'll Meet again , with visual effects of nuclear explosions, is the closing title.
Vera Lynn has written two autobiographies. Vocal Refrain in 1970, and We'll Meet Again in the early 1990s. Now aged 93 years, she is one of the last surviving major entertainers of the Second World War years.
More Information (Links) about Cradley in the Second World War (1939-45)
- Alf Clift's recollections of wartime Cradley, as a schoolboy at Colley Lane and Halesowen Grammar School
- Winnie Brown (née Pearce) recalls living in Cradley whilst working in Birmingham during the Second World War, where the food came from, and what happened to two of her cousins on active service
- Bombs Along the Stour: John Grice recalls life on the Home Front in Cradley during World War II