Network of WWII tunnels rediscovered beneath school campus

The Royal Masonic School for Girls | 7 Jun 2018 | Top News Story | ISC Icon GSA Icon HMC Icon
Students and staff at The Royal Masonic School for Girls have recently been rediscovering a network of Second World War air raid shelters that lie beneath the school campus at Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
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Entry to the Bunker

A chance discussion last summer between RMS Grounds Manager and a member of the History Department has resulted in around seven tonnes of earth being shifted to once more reveal a network of underground tunnels used by pupils of the school during the Second World War.

Constructed at the same time as the School in 1932, these tunnels are around 300m long, snaking beneath the current Science and Geography blocks, the school golf course and some of the lower fields.  During air raids, the 400 girls who were students at school at the time, as well as around 100 junior girls who were sent to Rickmansworth from their school in Weybridge, Surrey, would troop down to the shelter and spend the night there on wooden benches that lined the tunnels.  Visitors today can still see the shelving on which the blankets they used to keep warm were stored in between times.  

We don't know exactly how many times the shelter was used during the war, but it is known that on 25th September 1940 at 9.35pm German bombs landed on All Saints Church in Croxley Green, just a mile from RMS, and the tower, roof, organ, pulpit and the Lady Chapel all suffered serious damage.

The original seven entrances and exits were closed in the 1960s, although not well enough to put off some more determined students... some more contemporary graffiti sits alongside some names from 1939-45 that are etched into the walls.  The tunnels were also used by the local fire brigade up until 1988 as a training location to simulate working in pitch black conditions.

Later, in 2011, the tunnels were sealed with 6 tons of soil and steel plates; but when Hester Eccles, teacher of History at the school met with Billy Lees, Grounds Manager, they hatched a plan to once again open these up for official guided tours for the girls and staff to give them some insight into the School's history.  So far, nearly 150 visitors have been able to explore the dark corridors and see for themselves the environment their predecessors would have slept in over 70 years ago.

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Photo: Original shelving for blankets
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Photo: Original Wartime Graffiti

About The Royal Masonic School for Girls

Families choose RMS over other Girls Schools in Hertfordshire for many reasons; fundamentally they know that their daughter will achieve her very best here, that she will develop confidence, and most importantly, that she will be happy at school. We cater effectively for very different children, from girls who thrive on academic study to those who love sport; from confident dancers and actresses to gifted painters and designers.

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