- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Vera Jensen
- Location of story:
- Beacontree and Somerset
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 22 June 2004
This story was submitted to the People War’s site by Alison Irvine of CSV Media on behalf of Vera Jensen and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions
Being an evacuee
I was evacuated on 1st September 1939, two days before the war started. I remember hearing on the news that a war was to break out and I said to my brother ‘what’s a war?’ I didn’t know what one was. I lived in Becontree, Dagenham and I went with my brother to Somerset. My sisters went to Gloucester. I was 7 ½. We were told we were going for a little holiday. That lasted 4 ½ years. My eldest brother joined the navy, sailing round the world on a destroyer - he was only 16 and put his age up - so my mum had five of us away from home.
Before we were evacuated, my mum made us up a package of food to take with us. She did it for three or four days in a row until we were finally evacuated.
When we got to the village hall the locals came and picked us out like cattle. This went on until the evening. I went with an old lady and my brother went with a couple with two boys. He was made to do lots of hard work. I could see him from my window chopping wood. We couldn’t write home though because they censored your letters. We went to church three times every Sunday and it was my job to put flowers on the grave of the lady I was staying with’s husband. Every Saturday I had to go the village post office and collect ten shillings for the family I was billeted with.
Keeping in touch with my family
We used to go apple and blackberry picking. I was in a field and heard a voice saying ‘Are you a Londoner — an evacuee?’ There was a soldier who asked where I was from and it turned out he was from just round the corner to where I lived in Beacontree. He said would I like him to say hello to my mum and tell her that he’d seen her little girl. I said yes but thought nothing of it. A few weeks later I had a letter from my mum saying a soldier had knocked on her door and said he’d seen me in Somerset. Last year (2003) I was telling this story to an evacuee and she told me that the soldier was her uncle because he’d told her family the same story!
I came back home after four years and the rockets started coming over London and I was so frightened that I asked to be sent away again. I went to Yorkshire and was there for a year.
When the war ended I came to the west end for VE day and VJ day. I went with my sisters and cousins. Everybody was dancing and singing.
My brother’s return
My brother came back with a great big bunch of bananas and all the neighbours came out to see them. A great big stalk of green bananas that ripened. The neighbours asked if he was going to raffle them. The winners got a hand each. You couldn’t get them during the war or oranges.
My mum was cleaning the windows and a bomb was dropped and shattered the glass. She wasn’t hurt. The doodlebugs were like a motorbike backfiring and when the noise stopped, everybody ran.
In each road they had fire watchers. You were given a helmet and bucket and had to watch where the bombs fell. My mum was a firewatcher. She would alert the fire engines.
You used to walk along in a blackout and say sorry to a lamppost. All you had was a tiny torch. The air raid wardens used to come round and check that you had your window blacked out prop
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