WW2 bullet brings history to life at GCS

Workmen erecting signage on the front of the GCS main building last month made an exciting discovery - a hole in the main building wall, dating from a WW2 German bomber strafing on 16 December 1942, had the original bullet still lodged inside. Read our first hand student accounts of the experience in 1942!

On Wednesday, 16 December 1942 a German Bomber aircraft attacked a two-coach train at Bramley Station; seven people lost their lives. The plane then flew towards Guildford Railway Station, flying so low that eye witnesses were able to see German aircrew as three bombs were dropped.  One bomb hit a house; the other two fell on the road. One eye witness account reported, ‘It (the bomber) was flying over the railway station towards the tunnel. Suddenly there was a crackle of machine-gun fire from the dorsal turret (towards the rear on the starboard side). The gunner appeared to be trying to shoot up the railway station but, because of the aircraft’s low height, was unable to depress the gun low enough. The bullets sprayed the area to the right of Guildford Park Road and actually broke a window of the fish and chip shop there.’ Luckily, the only living things to be hit were one duck and a goose, both killed by stray bullets.

However, there was damage to buildings, including Guildford County School. One pupil, Margaret Tirrell (née Bird) recalled, ‘We heard the air-raid siren and were told to make our way to the shelters… We had a very strict drill but had become immune to any danger. On this day the plane suddenly dived very low. We couldn’t help thinking why was it shooting on us children?’’ Thelma Briggs (née Crawt) remembered that, ‘Some of us were getting ready to perform a play and were already in costume in the dining room. For once we were given permission to stay there and that’s where the rattle of machine-gun fire hit the school. We dived under the dining tables.’ The bullet holes from a 15mm cannon are still visible to the sides of the door at the main entrance.

Another account of the incident itself from Sheila Lambert (nee Woodcock), ‘I remember well the day we were all going to the shelters because of the air raid warning, and the school received some machine gun bullets just as we were entering the shelters. Luckily no-one was hurt, but I think a bullet hole is still visible over the front door on the right hand side. This front door we were never allowed to use!’

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the school (then known as Guildford County School for Girls) was used as an evacuation reception centre (processing centre for European migrants). Our students were not allowed to attend school until air-raid shelters were erected - they were given work to complete at home. In later years, tennis courts were constructed over the air raid shelters – on what is now the site of GCS’ new Art Block, completed in our centenary summer, 2014. Five shelters were uncovered and dismantled during the excavation work.

The discovery has brought history to life for many at the school this January, especially the Year 9's who are studying World War 2 at the moment. No wonder the most popular A Level subject here is History!

You can read more about the discovery on page 18 of the Surrey Advertiser, 16 January 2015 edition.

(Excerpts taken from the Guildford County School Centenary Book 1914-2014 - copies can be bought at the School Office for £5).