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School's cupboard discovery told wartime story

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Now here's something most Shropshire schools don't have squirrelled away in a cupboard – their own adopted ship.

The ship adopted by Hinstock pupils.

Twenty years ago staff and pupils at Hinstock Country Primary School were intrigued after finding three old photographs which had been hidden away for years.

They dated back to around the Second World War when the school "adopted" a ship.

Youngsters had corresponded with the ship’s captain and crew as part of an initiative set up by the British Ship Adoption Society.

Photographs of an unidentified ship and service personnel visiting the school were discovered by headteacher Denise Bidgood when she was clearing out an old cupboard.

The pictures were found with a handwritten note referring to various events in relation to the ship adoption.

The first entry recorded on September 30, 1937, said: “Received our first letter from Capt Williams of SS Somerset — through British Ship Adoption Society.”

The second entry referred to “Wireless service from large hall” on the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War .

The third entry, on September 9, 1942 , mentioned a visit to the school by a Captain E H Van der Veen, Captain S E Britten and Mr E Quire.

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Happily this visit was covered by the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser, which said the Hinstock School was one of the Shropshire pioneers of a ship adoption scheme, having been a member of the British Ship Adoption Society since 1937.

The first ship adopted was SS Northumberland – that is the ship the paper identifies, and not SS Somerset mentioned in the note found with the pictures.

Its master, Captain Williams, visited the school once but fell ill and had a shore job, which broke the link.

The school was then linked up with another Merchant Navy ship, although perhaps through censorship nowhere does the newspaper article name that second adopted ship.

Captain Van der Veen, it said, was a "gallant Dutchman" whose wife and 11-year-old daughter were in German-occupied Holland, and he had heard nothing of them.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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