On the 28th September, our Upper Sixth French A-level students were visited by a very special, French guest. Françoise Palmer kindly shared her fascinating experience of her life during occupied France in the 1940s. This story entailed her birth in Paris, fleeing to Versailles during the occupation period, continuing on to the Pyrenees and finally moving to the UK. The escape from the Germans was tough for Françoise and her family, especially as they wanted to exploit her father for his utilitarian skills, and the transition from one French area to another made aspects of education hard, along with general stability and settling. Françoise explained that rationing was extremely difficult, and something that we no doubt nowadays take for granted! From remembering her first ice cream, to eating two chocolate Cadbury fingers at a birthday party, this was deemed such a luxury.
After moving to the United Kingdom after the war at the age of seven, Françoise spent these two years seeking safety and reconnecting with family. Although her adventure did not stop there, as she later spent time in the US, in Washington DC, along with time in South America, in Chile. Françoise was lucky enough to experience school life and education in France, England, America and Chile, despite some of these memories being hazy; she certainly did not forget both the good and the bad school experiences. Our A-level students were therefore interested in her travelling experience, more so during the occupation and the restrictions that she faced.
With lots of questions and French conversations, students were able to gain an enriching experience and discover what life was like during this difficult period. Moving on, Françoise’s childhood experience and stories will be beneficial when students begin to learn about ‘L’Occupation’ and ‘La Résistance’ for their French A-level course. Students have also kindly been offered ‘bavarder’ (chitchat) sessions in French with Françoise to encourage and improve French, every-day conversational skills. Overall, Françoise described the school atmosphere as “excellent” and stated that “the students were very polite in the face of an inexperienced old lady, altogether a day to remember for all the right reasons!”