SCHOOLCHILDREN clutched gas mask boxes and identity cards as they boarded a train on the Bluebell Railway.

The scene at Horsted Keynes station on Sunday celebrated the 75th anniversary of a mass-evacuation of children from London at the start of the Second World War in 1939, dubbed operation Pied Piper.

Organised by the Horsted Cahagnes Society, the St Giles Primary School pupils travelled by steam train to learn how the railways managed the load during the period – and what it must have been like to be parted with family and friends.

The children returned to Horsted Keynes village hall after the trip for a wartime tea of fish paste and spam sandwiches, rock cakes and barley water.