Over the last six months I have included in the Wycombe War Timeline section information about the children who were evacuated to the district of High Wycombe at the beginning of world war two and went to the different schools in the area.

This is the first of what I intend to be a short series of articles about evacuated children who had special needs of one sort or another.

The article concerns the children who were evacuated to Horsley Green, near Stokenchurch, and were “seeking health and vigour in the sun and gusty breezes of the Chiltern Hills”.

They were disabled children and those with learning difficulties, 150 of whom were evacuated from London shortly after the outbreak of war to the Horsley Green National Children’s Camp.

This was the first camp for disabled children (at that time described as defective children!) to be opened under a pioneer movement initiated by the Government as part of the preparations for war.

The Camps Act was passed in April 1939, which provided for the construction of government-financed camps for use as educational holiday centres for children during peacetime, and as camps for evacuees during war.

The Act prompted the creation of the National Camps Corporation to oversee these camps, with initial funding given to the Corporation of £1.2 million, half of which was as a loan. Two Camps were built in Buckinghamshire, Horsley Green and another at Finnimore Wood near Marlow.

The 24 acre site at Horsley Green was designed to accommodate 200 children and work began in June 1939. The children who arrived in April 1940 were mostly from Hackney, Hoxton, Lambeth, Barking and Tottenham. For many of them it would have been their first experience of the countryside.

They were aged between 5 and 16 and their parents were allowed to visit them on Sundays, but I wonder how many were able to do so. They were said to be astonished at the general progress in health and physique of the children at the camp.

The Manager of the camp was Captain A L Rose and he told the Bucks Free Press when interviewed “They stood the harsh winter amazingly well. Now that the better weather is coming we hope they will benefit even more.”

Captain Rose was supported by 30 staff on the administrative side and another 30 for education and nursing. The camp had its own well-equipped hospital, a projector for silent film shows, a tuckshop, and “an airy dining hall where the children enjoy meals whose quality and quantity would probably surprise many German propogandists”

The people living locally were said to take a “benevolent interest in these newcomers to the Buckinghamshire countryside.

This was Illustrated in a striking manner recently when Captain Rose organised a dance at the camp and asked, as the price of admission, for articles of clothing to be given. Nearly 200 parcels of clothing were taken to the camp”!.

After the war the premises of the National Camps were offered for sale, and ownership of the school at Horsley Green passed to Lancashire County Council in 1947. From April of that year the Lancashire Education Committee ran an all-boys boarding school on the site. Initially this school was known as Stokenchurch School, but the name changed to Horsley’s Green School in 1950.

In 1971, the site was acquired by Wycliffe Bible Translators who used it as their UK headquarters until September 2013.

They expanded the site with additional wooden buildings bought from various sources. In 1975, the kitchen and dining room complex had to be rebuilt following a fire.

Known as ‘The Wycliffe Centre’, the site served as a base for training in cross-cultural language work under the ‘European Training Programme’ and as a Christian conference centre with facilities for 160 guests.

The buildings were named after individuals involved in Bible translation, such as William Carey, Henry Martyn and James O. Fraser. More recent buildings were called Tyndale and Aylward, which were built in the 1980s, and Bede followed in 1998.

If any reader has first-hand knowledge of the Horsley Green camp I would be very pleased to hear from them.

Another evacuee location which I am researching currently is the Orphanage for Girls which was located in the house which occupied a large plot land on the corner of Hammersley Lane and the A40 London Road.

If you have information about either of these please email deweymiked@aol.com or telephone 01628 525207.