Author Topic: Evacuation Memories  (Read 2104 times)

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Offline Sandra

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Evacuation Memories
« on: 22 July, 2008, 06:48:55 PM »
I put this on the old board back in 2005, but as there is a special Wartime Stories board on here, I thought I'd re-post it.

My Mum (Joyce Stokes) was only 4 years old when she was evacuated, so she dosn't remember a great deal about it. Her oldest brother Sid was 13, so he remembered a lot more. He told Mum about the time he decided to 'bring them all home' in a letter. 

I have copied this letter he wrote to her in 1991, and I'm going to share it with you -

Although it is 52 years (present day 69 years) since we were evacuated, the escapade as you call it, is still so vivid in my mind, that I could never forget it. I suppose looking back, it would appear that I was a bit of a rebel, but I wasn’t really. I just tried to do what I was asked to do, or rather what I was told to do. And that was to keep the family together, no matter what.

On, or about 28th August 1939, before war was actually declared, we were evacuated.  There were 5 of us, we left Clarkson Road School by bus. There were 3 buses (double deckers) full of children.  I had a rucksack that I got as a prize from school, John, Bert, Dolly and yourself had a carrier-bag each. These contained 2 changes of clothing. We also had each our gasmask, which was in a cardboard box, and another box, about the same size which contained emergency rations supplied by the government that we had to give our host.  These boxes were slug over our shoulders on string. Also we each had a big name-tag pinned to our coats.

I had strict orders from Mum that I was to look after everybody and STAY TOGETHER.  We were taken to Stratford main line station, and put on a train. It was about mid-morning.  We eventually arrived at Shepton Mallet, Somerset at dusk, and taken to a large hall.

There were a lot of people in the hall, and we were given drinks and sandwiches. Then people were moving among us, and picking out kids who they wanted.  Needless to say, most people wanted the two little girls aged 4 & 5, dressed in their identical red coats & hats (You & Dolly)  But I told them no, we all go together or not at all.  It ended up, there were only us 5 kids left.  By this time it was very late, about 10 or 11 pm.  The best they could do ‘till morning, was that 4 of us would go together and the 5th would stay in the house opposite.  Me, John, Doll and Yourself, were taken to a dairy owned by Mr & Mrs Nightingale, who had a son about 7 years old. And  lady we got to know as Grandma.  We were put in a room upstairs that had 2 single beds. You and Doll slept in one, Me and John slept in the other, top and tail.  Bert went to stay in a shop opposite, which was  a boot repairers.

The next day the Authorities tried to find somebody who could take the 5 of us, but they never had any success, so we stayed where were was for another night. The following day, I was told Bert could stay where he was, You and Doll would stay at the Convent or Nunnery (I dunno which it was exactly, but there were Nuns there)  This place was a few houses up from where Bert was.  The place you was had a big heavy wooden door at the front, with one of those pull-bells. This was to be a temporary place. John was to be sent somewhere further out and I was to stay with the Nightingales.

I decided that they were not going to split us up, and we would go back to London. I went to see Bert, and asked him if he could sneak out with his gear and meet us round the corner. He said he couldn’t (‘cos the poor little s*d was scared) so I told him what I was going to do, and told him not to say anything, and that I would tell Mum to come back and get him.

I got You and Dolly ready and packed and all our emergency rations in my rucksack (we hadn’t handed them over, ‘cos we didn’t know if we were staying there) we left our other gear in the room.  When we came down the stairs, Grandma was the only one there and she tried to stop us from going out. I pushed her out of the way and held her back, while John got You and Dolly out. ( I felt terrible, because she was such a nice lady, she originally came from Yorkshire and made lovely Yorkshire puddings)

We hurried into the street to the left and turned the first  corner, so we could get off the main road.  I had no idea which way to go to get to London, but though if we could get to a railway line, we could follow it and maybe get on a freight wagon.  We could not get to Shepton Mallet station, as that meant we would have to go down the main street.  Anyhow, after a long walk, I saw some train lines and further on, some wagons, but they were near a station. We didn’t see anyone around, so walked on the station, so we could get on the wagons. Just as we got on the platform a Porter came out and said ‘where do you think your going?’ I said ‘a picnic’ (cheeky s*d, wasn’t I?) At the time it was pouring of rain and we were all drenched.  Then the Porter saw what I hadn’t,  You and Dolly still had your name tags pinned on your coats.

The Porter grabbed you and Dolly, I ran and shouted to John ‘look after them, I’ll carry on’  I ran down the line, climbed on a wagon and jumped off the other side. Unfortunately, there was a steep embankment and I twisted my ankle, but kept going, because there was another Porter chasing me.  I got to the road, the Porter was shouting at a woman who was coming towards me, waving her umbrella, I got past her, then I saw the police car coming…..

We all had a nice ride home to the Dairy.

I tell you, it caused quite a stir, but I didn’t get into trouble, everyone seemed to understand our position, even the Headmaster (from Clarkson Street School) who travelled with us from London, came and saw me, and gave me a penny to share between us.

I never did share that penny Joyce, that means I still owe you a farthing!

Apparently the story of the 5 children trying to return to Canning Town make all the papers including a national one. Nan was down the local shops (in Canning Town)when she someone showed her the paper. "Ah, bless 'em"  she said, 'they miss their Mum'. Then she took a look at the photo and shouted "Bleedin 'ell, they're my bleedin' kids!" 
(actually remembering what Nan was like, I would have thought the language was a LOT more colourful than that!)

It all ended quite happily though, as Nan was heavily pregnant and had a 2 year old, she too was evacuated, this time the whole family was together in a prefab in Ilminster where they stayed until the end of the War.

Since I posted this story - which I also posted on the Shepton Mallet village forum board - I have found that the dairy building is still there, and a descendant of the Nightingale family has been in touch with me who remembered Mum and her sister. I have yet to find the story in any paper, local or national, but I would love to find it just to show Mum and Uncle Sid.

Mum's oldest brother Sid is still with us, as is Mum, but sadly they have lost Dolly 1933-1994, Bert 1930-2001 and John 1927-2004.


Offline Limey

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Re: Evacuation Memories
« Reply #1 on: 05 August, 2008, 11:05:00 PM »
Sandra thank you for sharing that interesting story.  What a scary time it must have been for a lot of kids that were separated from their families...glad your family had a happier ending as I'm sure some kids were placed in some abusive and not so loving homes.  I remember the film that came out just after the war or at the ending, it was called 'No Room At The Inn" and it made you wonder.

I was fortunate to be evaculated with my Gran and a couple of my Aunts and Cousins with a lovely family in a village named Chalgrove outside of Oxford. The lady and her sister-in-law with 3 children between them took even more of my family in and if I remember rightly there were about 16 of us living in a 3 bedroom house sleeping top to bottom :) Bless those good people for taking us Londoners in.