7 September 2011
Last evening I watched an interesting programme on television showing black and white film of the evacuation of 3Â½, million children from London, or thereabouts who were evacuated to the country. This event was probably one of the earliest I can remember as I was one of those evacuees, a few days past my fifth birthday. I recall the label around my neck and my gas mask in its cardboard box. I do have a clear memory of disembarking from the train with a group of other children. I think there were about eight of us in all taken off around the village by an evacuation officer. I’m sure it was pure serendipity as to what station you alighted and no doubt different groups were instructed to alight different stations alo
Under emergency legislation passed in anticipation of war (although this was a few days before we declared war on Germany) emergency legislation made it compulsory for every household approached by the evacuation authority to take in at least one child, provided that his there was no reasonable excuse for not doing so. Of course, they could take more than one if they were so inclined and had the space otherwise it was quite possible for siblings to be split up. In fact, it has been disclosed since that some people took advantage of the evacuees as a source of cheap labour.
I do recall traipsing from house- to house with my co-evacuees and being critically looked over by the would-be foster parents who after examining everything except our teeth would select from those of us who remained.- rather like a far Eastern slave market where one hoped one would be picked out by one of the kinder looking people who came to their front door. Some of the people indeed were quite hostile as they seemed unaware of their liability under the law. 0In any event the number dwindled until only I was left. I have no doubt that the evacuation officer was anxious to complete her task and get home
I was small for my age and for some reason did not appeal to the people being forced to take in an evacuee. I seem to have memories of it getting dark and beginning to rain when we knocked on the last door It was opened by what looked to me to be a very ancient witch-like figure, who having heard the evacuation officers ultimatum about taking in a child called her husband who was equally as old and wizened – I doubt if they were over 50! but to a five-year-oldâ€¦.. (even my own dear granddaughter Lara, when she was three, looked at a one-day “grandpa, you are very old”) They certainly had not envisaged being asked are clearly upset by the prospect of having a ‘ dirty little boy’ in their pristine house, but then the law was and they had no choice.
The elderly couple were clearly not enamoured with the idea of having a small child in the house and within a week and being unloaded onto her daughter explore. She was a jolly chubby soul with children of her own and I cannot remember being particularly unhappy there. I do remember, however, pushing the large brown that I can hardly see over the edge of. The great excitement of living with these people is the husband was a driver for the London Brick Company and in my school holidays I was allowed to ride with him on his deliveries. I stayed with this family for a couple of years before going off to boarding school.
Click here to see a picture in a billion. This was taken at the entrance to Katlan Bay at the end of the road in Sitka, Alaska.
The whale is coming up to scoop a mouthful of herring(the small fish seenÂ at the surface around the kayak). The kayaker is a local Sitka Dentist. He apparently didn’t sustain any injuries from the terrifying experience. The whale was just around the corner from the ferry terminal, and all the kayaker could think at that moment in time was: “Paddle Man – really fast!”
Lovely post. I’d really love to read more of your childhood remembrances of what it was like during the war.
Thanks Steve. I’m glad you enjoyed the entry about my evacuee experience. I tend to wait until I see or hear something that Charles my memory and then I will recount an anecdote.