Now the museum building has closed for our exciting redevelopment, the education department is bring its workshops out to schools and other venues.

One of our most popular workshops at this time of year is our World War 2 evacuation role play session.

On September 1st 1939 800 students from the Jewish Free School in Spitalfields East London were evacuated out of London to Ely. This proved a culture shock not only for the students but for the people of Ely. The students struggled being away from their families and the city they grew up in and Ely gained a Jewish community it wasn’t expecting. With the help of the Jewish Free School’s headmaster, Dr Enoch Bernstein and the vicar’s wife Mrs Hinton-Knowles the two communities learned to live together and eventually many lifelong friendships were formed.

In our workshop students re-enact the story. First as children from Ely and then evacuated children from the Jewish Free School

Dr Bernstein and Mrs Hinton-Knowles with Jewish Free School students

On the 25th November 2019 we had the honour of hosting a very special version of this workshop. Students and teachers from JFS travelled to Ely to join a class from Isleham school at a museum WW2 day. This is the start of an exciting collaboration between the two schools which will culminate in a major commemoration of the JFS evacuation of the school (to Ely and surrounding areas) during WW2, to take place on VE day next May. 10 senior students and 3 teachers from JFS joined us for an exciting and moving day

Mayor Michael Rouse was there to welcome the students from the JFS

The day starts with the students in role as WW2 Ely students they are visited by Mr Goff the ARP warden who drills them thoroughly on what to do in case of an air raid or gas attack. They are then informed that evacuees are expected the next day and they must prepare for their arrival.

Students then switch roles and become the Jewish children being evacuated. They are given a name tag of a genuine Ely evacuee. Their headmaster Dr Bernstein informs them that today is the day of evacuation. We flash forward to their arrival in Ely. They are given a drink and a biscuit just like the real evacuees were before being sent to their “billets” (roles played by teachers and volunteers) They then have to write a post card home. At the end of the day the students find out what happened in later life to the evacuees they were role playing.

Mr Goff explains the proper way to put on your gas mask.
2 Isleham students demonstrating their gas mask technique.
Students practising taking cover in case of an air raid
Mr Goff explains the gas rattle
Students are given their identity labels
All JFS students were required to carry a packed bag with them to school in case they were evacuated immediately
Dr Bernstein receives a telegram from the government “Today is evacuation day”

Thank you to Isleham C of E Primary School and the JFS for visiting us it was great opportunity for both the museum and the students involved. A big thank you as well to all our volunteers who helped during the session. If you are a teacher interested in more information about our school workshops, please contact 01353 666655 or email