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15 October 2014
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My two years in Undy

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Audrey Bowman
Location of story: 
Dover, Kent and Undy, South Wales
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 September 2005

This story has been added to the website by Eleanor Fell, on behalf of Audrey Bowman, who has given her permission for her wartime memory to be added to the site and she understands the terms and conditions of the website.

I was 10 years old when the war started, and within two weeks of Dunkirk the schools in Dover were evacuated to South Wales. On the 2nd July 1940 I was on a special train that left Dover with hundreds of school children. I was evacuated with everyone else from Buckland School to a little village called Undy in Mônshire, South Wales. My brothers were at Barton Road School, a different school to me and I thought we were going to be evacuated together but they ended up 15 miles away in Blackwood and not in the same place as me.

I was quite anxious the day we were evacuated as the furthest I’d ever been to on the train was Folkestone or Margate, not like 10 year olds now who have been abroad by that age. We left Dover station at about eleven thirty in the morning, it was a really hot day and we were on the train for a long time. We were supervised by our teachers who were being evacuated with us, not by our parents — as they had all stayed behind. As we passed through the stations people handed us things to eat through the windows. I remember that I also had a little luchbox, but I can’t remember exactly what was in it — some fruit and a sandwich I guess.

We got to Undy at about half past seven the same evening. When we arrived we went into the village hall, we waited for people to choose us, we weren’t allocated to anyone. I got picked by a very nice family, the Bowketts, who really looked after me. One of my friends was also picked by a family who lived on the same road as my family, although she was so homesick that she left after a couple of weeks.

My family had an older daughter called Pat who I got on well with. They also had a car, which was a bit of a luxury in those days. We would go on lovely trips to Barry Island nearby.

While we were in Undy we had to share the local school with the village children. Our teachers made sure that we still kept up our education, despite the war! One week we would have lessons in the morning in the school and the next week we’d alternate and have our lessons in the afternoon.

I remember one very sad event which happened after we had been in Undy for about six weeks. Two of the girls from my school were taking a short cut across the railway crossing. They had waited for the train to go and then they started to cross but they didn’t see the train coming in the other direction, and were killed on the line.

One of my happier memories was a surprise visit that I got from my parents. Before I was evacuated my dad wasn’t in the army, but when they came to see me about 6 months after I had been evacuated my dad was in a uniform! I remember seeing them walking up the village lane and I shouted out to my friends ‘Look it’s my mum and dad!’ My father was so surprised that I recognised him in his uniform that he started to cry and I did too!

I stayed in Undy with the Bowketts for two years, and they really made me feel one of the family, so much so that I didn’t really want to come back. However when I was 12 I went back to Dover to help back at home as my mum was having a baby and I was needed to help out at home.

I kept in touch with my ‘foster’ family in Wales for many years and I went to visit them a couple of times with my husband many years later, and they made me feel really welcome.

When I look back on everything that happened in the war, I think that being a mother must have been one of the hardest things. They were left alone while their children were wrenched from them and evacuated, and their husbands were called up to serve. Being left behind not knowing what was happening to your husband and children must have been one of the most difficult thing to cope with of all.

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