50 years ago the first man walked on the moon.
Just before this anniversary in July, Mr Jones, a teacher at North School at the time of the moon landings told us that he remembered a piece of moon rock brought to school, apparently sourced by a parent. This surprising piece of news was backed up by former pupil Rob Brown who remembered:
“Sitting crossed legged on the floor while a piece of moon rock was passed around for everyone to hold. The father of a friend in class was a scientist and had connections with NASA I believe.”
It seems that these rock samples were well known in Colchester after the landings. They had been sent by German scientists working at NASA to Horst Mueller, who had been their colleague in Germany during the war. Horst had been captured by the allies and brought to England as a prisoner of war. There were hundreds of POW camps across Britain at the time, including many in Essex and even one in Colchester. Its not clear if Horst was held at Camp 186, the Berechurch Hall camp which was home to 6000 men, but he did settle locally after the war and lived in Great Horkesley with his family.
Horst worked at Sheepen College (now Colchester Institute) and students remember seeing and handling the moon rocks in their classes there. Former North School students remember Horst’s daughter as their classmate and that is probably how the rock Mr Jones and Rob Brown remember made its way to North school.
Years later in 2014, North School pupil Fia Danes wrote a story for her homework about how astronaut Neil traveled to the moon because he thought it looked so sad. One day in assembly Fia found out that her story had been published as a book ‘The Melancholy Moon’ and was on sale for people to buy. All this in the same junior hall where almost 50 years earlier a real piece of the moon had been shown to the children.