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15 October 2014
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Grandmother's Surprise

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Colin Burstow
Location of story: 
Bexhill-on-Sea
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4456109
Contributed on: 
14 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by June Ogonovsky from Sidley UK On-line Centre a volunteer from BBC Southern Counties Radio and has been added to the website on behalf of Colin Burstow with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

In the summer of 1940 I lived with my family in Bexhill on Sea. Because of the possibility of invasion by the Germans it was decided that we should be evacuated .

So one morning my mother and sister I set off for the then the central station to be taken to an undisclosed destination by a special steam train. This was quite an event for me as a 7 year old boy.

Whilst waiting for the train an air raid was sounded and because the station was a likely target everyone had to leave and be dispersed around the area. We ended up in the cellar of Style and Winch Ltd, wine merchants on the corner of Sea Road and St Leonards Road. We were there quite a time but don’t think any bombs were dropped near us. We returned to the station but no train came so we were told to go home and return next day.

When we got back home Grandmother was amazed to see us and nearly collapsed in surprise. All she could say was “I have washed all the bedlinen and stripped the beds right down so you’ll have to sleep on the floor tonight.”

We left next day and to give us children something to do on the journey we were asked to write down the names of stations we went through. This wasn’t easy as most names had been removed or obliterated to confuse the Germans should they come!

We arrived after dark in Bridgewater in Somerset and were taken to a hall and then onto coaches to go to our new homes. When our turn came the old lady called out that she had said “no children”. So there was a bit of a hitch until another lady a few doors away called out “I will take them”. She already had 2 sons a few years older than us.

Her home was a terraced house in a long line originally built for either the workers at the factory at the end of the road or the nearby dock and warehouse complex. This was of great interest to me, it was between the River Parrott and a canal and the ships would enter the docks from the river and the goods would be transferred to canal boats.

There were only 3 bedrooms so we had one and had to share a double bed. There was only gas lighting and no bathroom. Baths were taken in a tin bath in front of the range and water was heated in kettles.

One night there was an air raid and next morning we found out that a parachute mine had exploded in a field behind the house. In this field there was a bull tethered to a large tree but we never saw him again. I expect the Germans were aiming for the factory or docks but it was strange that we should have gone all that way to get away from the bombs!

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