- Contributed by
- People in story:
- james austin
- Location of story:
- london, sussex, wales, surrey
- Background to story:
- Royal Navy
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 06 April 2004
In September 1939 I was living with my parents,a brother, and two sisters in Mansion St.,off the Camberwell Rd, close by Camberwell Green.My Scottish grandparents lived in the same street. Just before war was declared, gas mask fitting took place in the local church hall,[both hall and church now gone].
When war was declared all the children were lined up in Comber Grove school prior to being transported, along with the teachers,to where, we did not know.I have forgotten the mode of transport, initially I think it was London trams, but eventually we found ourselves in the village hall of Icklesham, between Rye and Hastings in Sussex. We children were obliged to sit round the outer edge of the hall, while the local residents were ushered in to choose the children they would take in.
My brother and I were picked out by a rather forbidding figure, black suit,black Homberg hat, with a full black beard, we were very apprehensive, to say the least. He turned out to be a high church dignitary, one Reverend Masters,who lived with his wife in the village.
One of the first things he did was to take my brother and me to meet the local vicar to tell him that we were both to be put in the church choir! The fact that we were two small fair-haired boys that might make the choir look more decorative seemed to weigh more with him than whether we could sing or not. Rev.Masters took us to Winchelsea church a couple of times, to watch him waft incense
down the aisle.
Alas, Rev Masters & wife soon found that two London evacuees were two too many, and we were shunted further down the village to a couple named Swallow,
who had a small sweetshop as a sideline. There was an orchard at the rear of the house,in which there was a disused double- decker bus, to attract, perhaps, pre-war holiday makers. They called the place Maid Marion, presumably because the local pub was called the Robin Hood. While there our sister joined us. [The Swallows had had an evacuee family previously, called Nightingale,who had gone back to London]. We were still in the local church choir and were obliged to read Pilgrims Progress at bedtime.
But we were eventually moved on again to a couple named Roberts,the man was a farm worker, and very quiet,his wife was not. They had a son called Garnet
in the army, and a son at home called George, who would not let us get up in the morning until he was ready to go out.
He also would not let us win at any games. In the winter of 39-40 the snow was quite deep, but we were obliged to go out because the lady of the house wanted us out of the way. I remember my brother crying with the cold. There was also a certain amount of bedwetting among evacuees, caused ,I think, by insecurity, which did not endear them to their hosts.
On the other hand, it was a new and fascinating experience to attend a meeting of the hunt at Guestling Green, and follow the hounds over the Sussex countryside, to pick hops in the local hopfield, the oasthouse drying floor made of horsehair, picking sheepwool from farm fences to enable local ladies to knit for the troops, to visit Merricks farm which had a horse chestnut tree with huge conkers lying in heaps, we had seen nothing like it. We chased cabbage white butterflies with great determination because propoganda said they were hindering the " dig for victory" campaign. We visited the local blacksmiths
in the centre of the village on the way to school,and watched the blacksmith hammering the redhot horseshoes on the anvil. One or two of the older boys shocked the village when they saunterd through carrying a few dead seagulls and crows, killed by bows and arrows they had made themselves
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