- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Annmarie Leslie
- Location of story:
- Far East and York
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 November 2003
I was born on 27 September 1939 in Kowloon, Hong Kong. My father, who was in the RASC was stationed there, and my mother who was expecting me, joined him in April 1939, sailing on the Dunera. We were evacuated in July 1940. Mum was only able to take a suitcase and a pram! We went first to the Phillipines to Manila and up to Baguio where we stayed at the Loretto Hospital. We were there for five weeks. Then we sailed from there on Awatea for Australia. We lived there until March 1942 when we sailed without convoy to Britain, via New Zealand and Panama. Arrived at Glasgow at the end of April and from there went by train to York. Of course all these were my Mum's memories, mine didn't start until we were actually docking. It wasn't a nice memory for me, and it haunted me for years. All that happened was my Mum's new hat blowing off down into the water! Frightened the life out of me!
We arrived in York, in the middle of the night 2 weeks after the blitz in York, to live with my grandparents and we stayed there until my father came home after the war. But there was no news of my father until June 1942, when Mum was told he was missing presumed dead. Then in September she was told he was a POW in Shamshuipo Camp, on Kowloon side
The street we lived in was an ordinary terraced one, where everyone knew everyone else. Next door to us was a family who's sons were in the army.
To me it was a safe secure life, and the only thing I knew about my father was a photo on the dressing table beside our bed. Each night I would kneel by it with Mum and say my prayers, asking God to bring my Daddy home safe and sound very soon.
My Grandfather was an unofficial air raid warden and Mum often used to go out with him at night, down onto the roof of the Rialto cinema to watch for the airplanes going over.
My uncle was in the army, the RA and drove the 10 ton trucks in convoys, he used to arrive home at all sorts of odd times.
I remember very clearly the rumbling of the convoys driving through York at night, and of course the sirens going.
We had heavy blackout curtains up, as did everyone, and there were always candles ready for emergencies. I can remember very well the times I was woken up during the night by Mum or my grandmother to be taken downstairs because the siren had gone off. I also remember, painfully, the times we tumbled down those stairs in the dark!
I used to be put under the big heavy dining table in the living room, with a blanket and lie there while the grown ups either played cards, or Mum and Dada, my grandad, were out watching the skies.
We had a neighbour across the road, who whenever there was a raid at night, would trail over from her house to ours with her children. They would pile under the table with me until the all clear went, when they would go back home! Each morning after there would be a little trail of clothes across the road from the escape the night before. This lady had an Anderson shelter in her yard, but wouldn't use it as she had heard of some people being buried in them!
Mum started work in 1943 at the Billing Section of the REME on St Georges Field, by the river side. and was looked after by my wonderful grandparents. When I was 4 I started school at Miss LaCamps Prep School, 5 Marlborough Terrace, Fishergate.
Regular visitors to the house were the RC Priests from St Georges Catholic Church, one of whom was Father Breen, a wonderful man.
Over these years my father remained just a photograph to me, until the day in 1945 when Mum and Dada took me to the station to wait for my Dad who was coming home We stayed there most of the day, then I was taken home because it was night. Then sometime in the night Mum woke me up and there beside her was this strange man, my daddy. He kissed me and gave me a present, a pair of dark red beaded slippers. Then I just went back to sleep again! Of course life was never the same after that, and like all families separated by war there was a lot of adjusting to do.
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