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15 October 2014
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Evacuation Memories

by Thanet_Libraries

Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Ainsworth
Location of story: 
Newton Abbot, Devon
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 September 2004

I was evacuated to Newton Abbot in Devon when I was about 11 years old, and as far as I can remember I was there for about 2 years.

I went with a school whose name I can't remember now. It was off the Old Kent Road, further up near the Elephant, but I can't really remember the name of it. I might think of it later!

I think it must have been late 1939 or early 1940 when I went to Newton Abbot, carrying my gas mask and the other usual bits and pieces. I can't remember how we got there. I remember we went by train, where from I don't know, and we arrived in Newton Abbot in the dark. It was night. We were taken to a hall where the local people were going to accpet us. I don't know how we got there, by bus maybe, or we may have walked.

If they liked the look of a child, they siad 'I'll have that child'. Obviuosly no one liked the look of me and two friends and we were getting left. We decided we wanted to stay together: I didnt really know them, I had met them in the hall. One was a little bit older than me and one was younger and we decided we wanted to be together. They were brothers.

The local Canon was there with his wife. Someone came up to me but I said no, we wanted to be together, so that meant someone would have to take three boys. Eventually, I don't know how it happened, the local chap came up to me and said the Canon has agreed to take the three of us.

Now Newton Abbot is in a valley. As you know, probably, many years ago people who were rich built their houses further up the hill, so the higher up the hill you were, the richer you were. The working class stayed down the bottom. The Canon's house was quite near to the top. He had a small car.

I think his house was a small mansion: it was a 20 odd roomed house and had a huge gravel stone drive going up to the house and lots of overhanging trees. It looked very creepy to us children not used to the country and when we came up to the gate, there were stone pillars supporting the front entrance. It looke forboding and dark, especially at night time. there was a huge hall and a magnificent staircase and a gong. he had a cook and a young Scottish maid about 16. I don't know if she lived in, I cant remember.

They took us up to a huge room, with three beds in it. The room was enormous, as long as it was wide. It still had the pull cords for when you wanted to call servants. the bay windows came right down to the floor.

In the morning the young Scottish girl would wake us up and we would have a bath and then would be taken along the landing and stair-case to sit with the Canon and his wife, ata huge table, sitting in high backed chairs. It was a beautiful place. They didn't have any children. He was about 60-ish, ormaybe older. He was a huge, tall man.

I found it a lot different from living in London, because most of us had come from one room.

I felt slightly our of my depth, especially when we were sitting in these huge chairs, and the cannon and his wife were sitting at the other end of the table, eating. The maid used to fetch in the food. Eventually we got used to it, fairly quickly.

It was scary at night, up in the bedroom.It was dark and we could hear the noises of the animals and owls and the trees rustling. We werent used to it at all. The other two boys got in touch with their parents, I can't remeber how long they stayed there. Eventually their parents came to take them back to London. I was left there on my own, in this huge place.

We didn't go to school, as far as I can remember. They didnt send us or ask us if we wanted to go. The Canon had huge grounds,a tennis court and a croquet court and a lovely big, white or grey shire horse. Masses of gardens, fruit gardens growing loganberries and all sorts of produce for the kitchen.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Evacuation Memories

Posted on: 08 September 2004 by Audrey Lewis - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Thanet Libraries,
Please convey my appreciation of John Ainsworth's story. A very revealing experience! How did it influence him in later life?
Audrey Lewis

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