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Evacuee 1941

by alanrudd2

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Alan Rudd
Location of story: 
Hull, Bubwith, Yorkshire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 May 2005

I was born in 1934 in a polluted and highly industrial district of Kingston-upon-Hull. We lived in a street off Wincolmlee which is a long and winding road that follows the contours of the River Hull and runs through much of the old city.

In addition to a large residential population, the area abounded in Oil and Cake Mills, Seed Crushing Industries, Paint Factories, Flour Mills and lots of other businesses that relied on the proximity of the river and its barges as their main form of transport. As a target for German Air Raids in World War 11 it was second only to the Hull Docks, which were only about two miles away.

I was seven years old in 1941 when the air-raids began in earnest and have clear and vivid memories of our daily routine. The raids were a regular nightly occurrence and were treated by us kids as exciting, interesting and, on occasions, a welcome break from school.

We lived in a close knit community of friends and relatives, mostly in Terraces, which in our context was a rectangular cutting in a street, with a blank wall at one end, the other end open to the street, and approximately 10 or 12 small houses running along each of the two remaining sides.

Most terraces had a communal brick Air-Raid shelter (about 36’ x 15’) sited in the middle. This is where the mothers and children retired to at about 7pm and where the children were bedded down for the night. Fathers tended to pop in and out at intervals; as many believed that staying in the shelter was not the manly thing to do. Remember, those were the days of the “stiff upper lip” and if you were scared you certainly wouldn’t show it.

I can remember every detail of those shelters. The women took a delight in turning them into a real home from home, with colourful mats scattered on the concrete floor and their best bedding adorning the bunks.
The atmosphere was jolly, all my friends were with me, we had music and entertainment from battery operated radios, electric lighting, (which many of us didn’t have in our homes) a chemical steel drum toilet, (with a wooden seat) and double folding bunks running along the entire length of the shelter. The top bunk was hinged, which could be folded up to provide seating space on the bottom bunk. It was very difficult to get the kids to sleep as we were too excited and wanted to continue joining in the community singing. On some occasions, if we were good, we were allowed to stand at the entrance to the shelter and watch the mayhem outside. I can often remember seeing the night sky lit up with searchlights and clearly see the enemy planes and barrage balloons caught in the lights beam. The overriding memory is of the horrendous noise. We could hear the drone of the large flights of bombers seeking their target, the boom of the high explosive bombs and land-mines as they hit nearby factories and houses. Eventually there came the relief of the All-Clear Siren and when another plane was heard the adults would say reassuringly, “It’s OK son, it’s one of ours.”

If the raid had been a particularly heavy one it might mean a day off school the following day. That gave us the opportunity to partake in our favourite hobby, collecting shrapnel, which was a prized method of school swaps and trading. The larger and unusual shapes were the most valuable.

Later in 1941 the Air-Raids on Hull intensified severely and the authorities decided to evacuate as many people as possible to the countryside. Many children were sent alone but I was fortunate to be accompanied by my mother and elder brother. My father remained at home and carried on working. We travelled on the first day by bus to Howden and were accommodated on the first night in the Village Hall. We were issued with mattresses stuffed with straw and spent the night sleeping on the wooden floor. The following night various residents offered temporary accommodation and we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the Vicarage. I well remember the luxurious beds and rooms and even better, the breakfast of real porridge served by the Vicar’s housekeeper. It was the first and best porridge I had ever tasted and included lots of salt.

The following day another unique experience. We were driven by car, (a Ford Prefect) to Bubwith, a small village between Holme-on-Spalding Moor and Selby. This is where I was destined to spend the next 12 months. We were paraded with about 20 other Hull evacuees in the school playground where local villagers walked up and down the line deciding which of us to accommodate, ostensibly for the duration of the war.

This felt like a cattle or slave market and took quite some time. Eventually, we were entrusted into the care of one Mrs Batty, an elderly and severe lady whose husband was the local churchwarden, church clock winder and grave digger. My most memorable impression as we took up residence at her cottage was the shock of finding an “Earth Closet.” Even in our own deprivation we at least had mains drainage. This cottage had none and the toilet appalled me to the extent that I refused to use it for nearly a week. I was fascinated to see a horse and cart with high sides call each week to shovel the contents, (disguised with lots of straw) from a street-side trap door in the wall.

My mother’s relationship with Mrs Batty was not good and within a few months we had moved two doors along Church Street to live more amicably with a Mrs Almond. We still had no running water but a better class of “Privy” at the end of the garden.

Life at the small village school was not easy for us “Townies.” It covered all age groups and we were regularly beaten up at playtime by the local kids. I found it safer to play directly outside the Head teacher’s window than venture into the outer playground. Country life was a new experience and I even worked part-time on a local farm.

When the time came to return to Hull I found that I had slipped well behind my peers in education standards and it took quite some time to catch up.

The war made a deep impression on my young mind and I wouldn’t recommend the experience to anyone. However, it shows that you can never underestimate the ability of children to adapt to any circumstances and the amount of awareness they actually have to what is happening around them.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Humber Category
North Yorkshire Category
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