UsernamePasswordLoginForgot your password?
Welcome to the St. Francis’ College Old Girls’ Association (SFOGA) website.
St. Francis' College in the 1940s
In many ways the history of St. Francis’ College in the 1940s is the history of how the College coped during and after the Second World War. The outbreak of war in September 1939 coincided with the opening of the new Broadway Building. This building had been built to accommodate the growing number of boarders and Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. All teaching now took place in the older part of the school. The new imposing building was made up of four floors, and a series of cellars which were used as air raid shelters during The Battle of Britain.

On the ground floor were the kitchens, sitting and dining rooms for the Sisters, dining room for the girls, cloakrooms, study room and recreation room for the boarders. The centre of the first floor was occupied by the magnificent chapel and area known as the Sisters’ Choir (now an economics teaching room). There was also an infirmary, guest rooms, a sitting room for boarders and a dormitory divided into cubicles for younger boarders. The second floor consisted of rooms for the boarders. The Sisters had private accommodation in a part of the building which was out of bounds to the pupils. Attic rooms were converted at a later stage.

During The Second World War the Sisters tried hard to make sure the school continued to run as normally as possible, but school life was altered in many ways. Some overseas boarders were unable to get to Letchworth, but the number of boarders from the UK rose as the town was seen as a safe place to live for pupils from other parts of the UK. Contact with the headquarters of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary in Ghent was lost for five years, and it was only in 1945 that the Sisters in Letchworth learnt that three members of their Order had been killed by bombs, and three imprisoned by the Germans for three and a half years for helping Belgian and British soldiers escape occupied territory.

The College was also home to groups of evacuees from London who were accommodated on the second floor of the old school building. Reverend Mother put beds into every corridor for homeless families. Two large dining rooms and a kitchen formed the Communal Feeding Centre where lunch was served daily to between 130-200 children from various schools. The gymnasium was given over to the ARP until September 1942, and the WRVS given two rooms. Blackout material covered all the windows, and cabbages replaced flowers at the front of the school. The gates on the Broadway were removed to make parts for a Halifax bomber.

The school magazines of the 1940s are a wonderful source of how the momentous events of The Second World War affected St. Francis’ College. Sister Elisabeth was keen that the school supported the war effort in any way they could. She bought wool so the girls could knit socks and scarves for fighting men, older girls took part in potato picking on local farms and pupils enthusiastically supported fundraising initiatives in the town. A particular favourite was to pay a penny to hammer a nail into Hitler’s coffin in the town centre! In 1942 proceeds from the school production of HMS Pinafore were given to Letchworth War Ship Week, and the College adopted HMS Rockwood. Girls were encouraged to pray for, send books and write to the sailors.

There was great excitement when the girls heard on the wireless at 7.45pm on May 7th 1945 that the Germans had surrendered. The Reverend Mother announced a two day holiday and bunting in the shape of a V was hung outside the school. On May 9th pupils had a bonfire in the school grounds and a 7ft high effigy of Hitler was burnt.

However the magazines also illustrate how hard the Sisters worked to keep life normal for their pupils. The atmosphere was always optimistic and joyful according to a pupil who was there at the time. In 1944 the house system was set up with houses named after St. Bernard, St. Benedict and St. Vincent. St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated every year with a hockey match between the girls and the Sisters. The match was great fun, even if the rules of hockey were not strictly adhered to. Sister Christophane proved to be a very capable goalie. Getting past her outstretched skirt proved almost impossible for the girls.

During the Second World War it was not possible for girls to travel to Ghent to join the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. This led to a desperate need for more English speaking Sisters after the War. In 1946 St. Francis’ College was chosen as a location for a Novitiate to train new postulants and novices for a year before they went to Ghent. A number of former pupils from St. Francis’ College went on to join the Order.

The College continued to develop its facilities at the end of the 1940s. Laboratories were expanded, a modelling room added to the Art Room, Domestic Science facilities launched and more land acquired for playing fields. In January 1949 Sister Patrick launched the Old Girls’ Association to help students stay in touch with each other and their old school.
Gallery Photos
Girls at St. Francis' College celebrating VE Day
Girls at St. Francis' College celebrating VE Day
Prep Transition 1945
Prep Transition 1945
Aerial view of St. Francis' College
Aerial view of St. Francis' College
St. Benedict's House 1944
St. Benedict's House 1944
St. Bernard's House 1944
St. Bernard's House 1944
Mikado 1945
Mikado 1945
Chapel 1943
Chapel 1943
Exterior 1940
Exterior 1940
Forms 1 and 2 en route to tennis 1942
Forms 1 and 2 en route to tennis 1942
HMS Pinafore 1942
HMS Pinafore 1942
Novitiate first eleven hockey team 1948
Novitiate first eleven hockey team 1948
Novitiate clothing ceremony
Novitiate clothing ceremony
Nursery and Kindergarten 1941
Nursery and Kindergarten 1941
Passion play 1948
Passion play 1948
PE 1948
PE 1948
Sister Aquinas 1945
Sister Aquinas 1945
Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary 1947
Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary 1947
St. Vincent's House 1944
St. Vincent's House 1944
Exterior
Exterior
InTouch-Online (v 2.9.5.7) supplied by InTouch Software