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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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My Wartime Memories

by gloinf

Contributed by 
gloinf
People in story: 
Mrs Nancy Knapp
Location of story: 
Sussex
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4009303
Contributed on: 
05 May 2005

1939 at the age of 10, my parents decided that the youngest children of the family should be evacuated to Sawbridgeworth after France fell approximately 1 year after the war started. Therefore my young twin brothers who were around 12 years old and I who was around 2 years younger were sent off out of the way of air raids and vital places which invited unwelcome attention from the Germans.

We children were waiting to be told where and with whom we were going live and were labelled ready for dispatch tagged by name age and religion. After a long wait someone came up to me and told me that I would not be able to be with my brothers as my parents had wished, but that I had to be billeted separately as no one was prepared to take 3 children, this upset me greatly, but it had to be accepted, and although not together we would be in the same district and not too far from each other. So I stayed with Mr & Mrs Puncher. Who were very nice people and kind to me.

I called them Uncle Fred and Aunt Cis I remember that I slept under the table downstairs, unfortunately the air raids that were experienced in the area were deemed to be worse than in Eastbourne, as amongst constant air raids, land mines were being dropped, which were destined for a factory, but sadly fell on residential property and killed an entire family.

Also there was cannon fire, directed at the factory and I remember being out in the fields with Aunt Cis, when there was an attack, so we ran indoors, for fear of being hit. I can still hear the guns firing from the aircraft above us, as time went on there were air raids each night.

Although my brothers and I were happy with our billets it was decided that we should go home since the area was becoming increasingly dangerous.

The next time we were evacuated, some few weeks later, the billet for the boys turned out to be very bad and I had to write home and warn my parents that the boys were miserable, as they were made to eat their food in a cold scullery separately from the rest of the household and they were only given bread and margarine. The boys were not able to write home themselves as any attempt at letter writing was censored by their hosts.

My sister came and collected all of us and we went home.

The next billet was in Frant, near Tunbridge Wells, we stayed there 6 months, living with my Mothers cousin, This time Mother came as well and I went to school to St Saviours which had been moved to the area in entirety. This time the twins worked on a farm as they were now l4years old. W e had to go home again after 6 months as relatives who were closer blood relations needed to move in.

This time Dad came and collected us.
We went back home for a while, and were then evacuated to Edenbridge to live with another cousin of my Mother’s, again the twins worked on a farm. I was then 14 and it was decided that! Should start work as a domestic. The lady I worked for was a Mrs Baines she had two children and she rented the property she lived in from a Lady who lived in London, Lady came down each week and returned every Monday morning to London. I was told by Mrs Baines that if I Should come face to face with Lady then I should only say good-morning nothing else!

Mrs Baines was a most kind lady and I was happy whilst working for her. Lady was a rather superior person and obviously thought she was important.
We discovered later that my Mother’s family name was Seymour and that we were distantly related to Royalty.

We went home again after a few months and spent some weeks at home and then were sent to Blackboys, Our Grandfather Seymour went with us to stay with an Aunt and the house was so full of people there was not a room for me so I had to sleep in the apple shed, but it was a new shed and quite warm and comfortable.

I remember the German bombers flew overhead returning to Germany and the noise of the aircrafi kept me awake. I was not able to sleep till they had passed over each night. By this time I was 15 and I worked in Uckfield in The Home and Colonial stores in the cash desk. We were in Blackboys about 9 months. I suppose businesses were accustomed to only having their staff for short periods of time, as people were constantly moving around the country trying to escape the bombardments.

After the war when I was around 16, I went and visited some the people I had been evacuated to and saw them several times, it was good to see them and to talk of our experiences since seeing them last.

My husband Victor and I met through my working at a Dry Cleaners, in later years, but I had seen him first when I had attended a Dinner, and I was interested in him although we did not speak, I asked my hostess who he was and was told that he had just returned from India, and I was told his name.

One day not so long afterwards he came into the Dry Cleaners in which I worked, and handed in some cleaning he wanted done, he did not recognize me, and was most surprised when I said thank you Mr Knapp, then I explained how I knew his name, and we chatted a little then he said he did not know where to go or what to do and felt rather lost as he had been away from England for some time, he asked me how I spent my free time and whether I went to the pictures, I said No, I preferred to go dancing.

He told me he could not dance, and I said you just follow the music and relax, so he said he’d try if I liked, and he even took lessons, but after 56 years has still not mastered the art ! But has been an excellent companion in every other way.

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