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- Len Marsh
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- 08 May 2005
WW2 Experiences of an Evacuee Chapter 2.
By Len Marsh
By 1941 air raids started in Exeter, which is about 6 miles north of Starcross. I then returned to Dagenham at about 8 years old. The Anderson shelter was now flooded! From Dagenham I was sent to my parents friends in Carshalton, Surrey. While there I joined the Cub Scouts. A fete was organised to raise money for the war effort. One of the activities was banging nails in Hitler's coffin at a penny a go. All local councils were taking down park railings for scrap metal to help in the war effort. After several months I returned to Dagenham again. It was then I smoked my first cigarette. I was with a group of children standing at one of the rear doors of the local cinema waiting to sneak in, one of them had managed to get hold of a pack of 5 Woodbines and offered them to the others. I took one to try but felt sick afterwards and didn’t smoke another cigarette for several years.
My sister, Mary, was born in February 1942. Soon afterwards a baby's gas mask arrived, which completely enclosed her in a frame structure covered with a rubber sheet with a clear perspex window where her head would lay. Fortunately, it would never be used. Unfortunately, I was not to see Mary or my Mum again until 1947 when I was about fourteen because a few months after Mary was born I was evacuated again, this time to Valley Farm, Woodbridge, Suffolk. A woman social worker accompanied me to my new home. Towards the end of the trip we changed from the main line onto a local branch line train to Woodbridge. This old train had large arm chair seats, which seemed very luxurious at the time. In June 1942 Dad was retired from active service in the Navy because of ill health.
There were about six other evacuees on the farm. We enjoyed ourselves with rides on tractors and large carthorses. The village school was about three miles walk away. Bath night was fun with the children washed in a big tub filled with water heated on a large stove and taken from the local duck pond! One of the busiest times was gathering in the harvest. We helped load hay onto haystacks after the combine had separated out the wheat, but were soon distracted trying to catch field mice. Another crop I 'helped' to harvest was sugar beet, where we loaded the crop onto lorries and took them into Ipswich, about 8 miles away, for shredding and processing into sugar. Also, we each had a small plot of ground to look after and grow to vegetables.
An old car was stored in one of the barns, which I managed to start while playing with the controls. However, I soon learned to behave and not to tinker with things, by the use of a well remembered teaching aid. ie. The farmer's leather belt! Other memories included milking cows, being chased by hornets after we destroyed their nest and having to go to the bottom of the garden to a chemical toilet. Electricity was not generally available and large oil lamps were lit around the farmhouse at night.
In 1943, at about ten years old, I moved from Woodbridge to Guildford, Surrey. I guess my parents had separated by this time, Dad now lived in Rotherhithe New Road, Bermondsey with Grandad. There were few memories of my stay in Guildford, except having to recite multiplication tables at school after lessons and talk of building the foundations to Guildford Cathedral.
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