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15 October 2014
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Burst Frogs and a Split Appendix

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
William, Jean, Molly, Brian Casey
Location of story: 
Dagenham, Norfolk, Stoke on Trent
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 July 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Stuart Marshall from Crawley Library and has been added to the website on behalf of William Casey with his permission and he fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was evacuated from Dagenham in the East End of London at the beginning of the war and transported by paddle steamer down the Thames to Cromer in Norfolk. The boat we were on was a pleasure steamer called ‘The Queen of the Channel’. I was with my two sisters, Jean and Molly and my brother, Brian. I was about six or seven at the time. We were taken to a church hall where we slept on horse-hair mattresses on the floor and I can still smell the smell now.
The next day we were ‘chosen’ by various people who were interested in looking after evacuees from London, I believe they were given some sort of fee for doing this. My older sister Jean always joked about being the last one to be picked.
The first thing I remember after that was being at a very old cottage and that they didn’t have a bed for me so I was put to bed on a sofa. I was kept awake by loud snoring, a noise I had never experienced before. I wasn’t happy at all there, actually I was quite scared. It was very dark, I was away from my family and I didn’t understand where the snoring was coming from.
I went to the local school and that’s where I met my sister Jean again. She looked at my lunch, which was bread and jam sandwiches and not long after this I was moved to the farm nearby. This was where my brother and my sisters were living.
Many incidents stick out in my mind from the farm. One in particular was watching a group of farmers standing around a big pond shooting rats. The rats were diving into the pond and trying to get away.
From the farm we used to walk to school, I think it was in the spring because all the frogs were out. We used to stop by a big pond in the village looking for frogs and frogspawn. An awful memory I have is seeing some of the local children blowing the frogs up with straws so that they died.
I don’t know the name of the next place I went to or how I got there but it was near Hanley, Stoke on Trent. I think they moved us inland because of the possible danger from being near the coast. My experiences of this family are little bit vague but I was sent to a school that seemed to be a long walk away. I was often quite late for school because I would stand by a stream looking for minnows and tadpoles.
On one occasion I was ill with an upset stomach and the mother of the house told me to stay in bed while she took her son to school. When she came back she had no front door. The villagers had heard my screams and broken the door down to get me out. I had a burst appendix and I was taken to the local hospital in Hanley.
I have a very vivid memory while I was in hospital of a man looking down at me while I was lying on the bed. He made me feel very calm when I had been in so much pain and very frightened. He wore a trilby hat, he had a pipe in his mouth and he wore a fawn jacket. I don’t know if he was a surgeon or a doctor and I think it was night time. He was talking to me in a very comforting way and he put me at ease. I had no relatives there and none of my family knew I was ill so this man kind of took that place.
Many years later in my thirties I was working for Lloyds Register Shipping and I met a man called Albert who worked as a rigger in the London docks. Albert had worked on the steamers taking the evacuees up to Norfolk and he had possibly been on the same boat as us.

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