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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Betty I. Cobb (formally Lawrence), Mrs thel Lawrence (my mother), Flight Sgt. Charles Lawrence (my father) Dorothy Short nee Lawrence (my sister), Charles & Sidney Lawrence (my twin brothers), James & Mary Lawrence (uncle & aunt)
Location of story: 
Talbot Road, East-Ham, London (now) Newham & Kingsthorpe Northampton & Grantham
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 June 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War site by a volunteer from CSV Action Desk on behalf of Mrs Betty I. Cobb and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Cobb fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

My name was Betty Lawrence, we lived at Talbot Road, East-Ham, London, E6. I was 9 and 3/4 when war was declared, my sister Dorothy was 6 and 3/4 my twin brothers were born December 1939.

Our father, Charles, was called up into the RAF two weeks before war was declared, as he was on reserve, he had served 8 years in the RAF previously. He was a flight sgt. We were sad to see him leave. My mother, then six months pregnant with twins, must have been very apprehensive, wondering how we would cope, but she did, very bravely.

SPRING (1940)
My father was stationed far away in RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland. One Sunday lunchtime my father's brother and his wife came to see us and have a meal with us. Just as the meal was being dished up the siren went, signaling an air raid. We hurried into the garden and down into the anderson shelter. I can still smell the earthy mustiness of it. After a few minutes in the shelter, there was a loud bump and our shelter shuddered, my uncle looked out of the shelter, the fence between our house and next door had a gap in it, where my sister used to go through and play with the little Jewish girl. My uncle saw fins of (what we found later out was a 500lb bomb) an unexploded bomb, right on the shelter belonging to the family next door, who luckily had gone out that day. Imagine! They were the only family in our long road that owned ACAR, makes you wonder where the petrol came from!

Hurriedly my uncle, aunt and our mother ushered us through the house, collecting bottles, nappies and the pram for the twins. We went as we were to the air raid post on the corner of the street, the raid was still taking place. Several other people were in the same situation as us.

We were all transported to a hall in Romford where we slept on camp beds. We stayed for a week until the army could defuse the bombs in the vicinity. When we arrived home, our lovely meal was all mouldy. But we were safe!

My school, Vicarage Lane Junior, started an evacuation scheme. It was then my mother decided it was safer for us to leave London. Usually children went without their parents, but because she had the twin babies, she was allowed to go with us. Off we went, by train, with our gas masks on our backs and our little brown labels pinned on us, we thought it a great adventure.

When we arrived at Kingsthorpe, Northampton, the authorities had not enough placements for us so we had to sleep on dreaded camp beds, again, in an empty shop on White Hills Estate.

When we eventually were placed with host families, my sister and I were with one family and my mother the other side of the estate with another family. Our placement hadn't a bedroom for us, so we slept on the dreaded camp bed, again, in the dining room. Then we had to fold it up before we went to school.

The sirens went one night in Northampton, I thought to myself; "That Hitler person knows we are here!"

By now my father had been sent to Egypt on aircraft maintainence, we didn't see him for four year. We girls remembered him, but the twins found him a stranger, until they got to know him, when he came home.

My mother had a word from my grandmother in London that our house in Talbot Road had been destroyed in the raid that night. So it was very lucky we were no longer there. So, now we were homeless but my mother never ever let us see her distressed as I am sure she must have been. After a few months of us living apart, my mother decided we would go to her mother and fathers at Grantham and here we have stayed, except one twin that lives in Canada.

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