Children discover local WW2 history when evacuated to Testwood Lakes

At Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve in Totton children can see genuine WW2 remains and artefacts and experience what life was like for an evacuee in the New Forest. Oakwood Primary School Year 3 children from Southampton have been studying their local history from the WW2 era this autumn term. To get some real ‘hands-on’ experience they donned 1940s costumes, made gas masks and identity cards and headed for the ‘Testwood Lakes Evacuation Centre’.

When they arrived they were met by a woman from the homefront and a landgirl, who explained that their New Forest families were not able to collect them until later, so they needed to help out at Testwood. First the children took part in an air raid drill so they knew what to do if there was a real air raid. They then learnt all about rationing, make-do and mend, swapping and digging for victory with lots of hands-on activities and genuine WW2 artefacts such as gas masks, military clothes and household items.

The rest of the day was spent outside making charcoal, building shelters in the woods for Southampton families whose houses had been bombed in air raids (people actually used to do this) and helping out with the land girls’ jobs such as raking grass in the fields.

In the afternoon the children were asked to help with an important task. The government suspected that the enemy may have been tampering with the anti-tank devices on the River Test bridge and that there may be spies about. After some training on how to use binoculars, the children walked through the nature reserve to the River Test bridge, keeping an eye out for spies. At the bridge the children discovered that some of the anti-tank devices had been destroyed and some were very overgrown with weeds. They also used old maps to understand why Southampton was a target for air raids in WW2.

At the end of the day the coach arrived to collect the children to ‘take them to their new families’, and each child was given a booklet to complete to remind them of everything they had learnt during the day.

Several schools in the local area have taken part in this action packed role play day, ranging from Year 3 to Year 7. The teacher at Hythe Primary School said “We were really impressed by the staff at the centre and the way they threw themselves into role for this visit. Several parents have already spoken about how much their children have talked about their experience – not very common I assure you!”

If you would like to find out more about our WW2 Evacuee experience day or our Bronze Age living history day that takes place at our Celtic Roundhouse please email:




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