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Benenden School pupils make Second World War finds including Aero, Bourneville and Milky Way wrappers

Secondary school pupils made an amazing discovery when they came across artefacts dating back to the Second World War while exploring their boarding house.

The Benenden School pupils found chocolate wrappers and letters from the 1940s when they sorted through a cupboard in the 19th century building.

Hailey McNally with the hidden cupboard
Hailey McNally with the hidden cupboard

The girls' boarding school, whose main building, Hemsted, dates back to the 1860s, was used as a military hospital during the war.

More than 70 years on, the four pupils found the various wrappers and packaging, as well as letters to Second World War soldiers, who presumably received treatment there.

During a study session in a room in which the layout had recently been remodelled, the Year 10 pupils – Olivia Boyce, Ella Gouriet, Izzy McLean and Hailey McNally – spotted a hatch almost entirely hidden by a wardrobe.

They pulled the wardrobe out and found the hatchway gave access to a small portion of the eaves.

Izzy, 14, who crawled in to retrieve the items, said: “We saw there was a cupboard and wanted to see what was in there!”

Lux soap was among the packaging discovered (45747846)
Lux soap was among the packaging discovered (45747846)

Ella, 15, said: “We didn’t know what we were going to find. We found some other things in a cupboard a while ago, like some sewing from the 1980s, so we thought we might find something. There were spiders so I chickened out and Izzy went in!”

The items retrieved included Bourneville, Aero and Milky Way wrappers, a Lux soap packet and packaging from Player’s Weights Cigarettes and Swan Vesta matches.

The most intriguing finds were fragments of two letters presumed to have been written by hospital staff who would have been stationed at the school during the war.

One, addressed to Bill, is dated July 2, 1942. The other, from June 26, 1941, is more complete.

Written by Betty, she updates her “sweetheart” Bobby on the welfare of his family and shares highlights of her recent life, including having been “to the pictures to see Spring Parade”, a musical comedy first released in 1940.

A portion of one of the letters found in the cupboard (45747853)
A portion of one of the letters found in the cupboard (45747853)

Hailey said: “It’s really cool because we are living in the modern day but you hear stories of what happened in the war and this has really brought it to life.

“We are living in history. As it’s the time of coronavirus, we thought about leaving a face mask inside the cupboard and in 30 years’ time some other girls will say ‘hey, look what I found!’”

Needless to say, the girls have now been seeing what else they can discover.

Ella said: “We went round all the cupboards that can be opened - but didn’t find anything!”

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