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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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school days in london and south wales

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
kenneth bridges, phyllis (nee) bridges
Location of story: 
winchmore hill, london; bishton and risca, monmouthshire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
09 August 2005

I was just 11 when war broke out. We lived at Winchmore Hill – Mum, Dad me and my sister Phyllis, who was a year older than me. The day war broke out, it was sunny. We heard Chamberlain’s announcement on the radio.

Until March 1940 life was quite normal, though we’d had gas-masks given us earlier in 1939. Mine fitted where it touched! We had gas-mask practices. The school corridors had blast walls built. We put the masks on – they were horrible; hot and sweaty. Good job we never had to use them!

In March 1940 the decision was taken to evacuate me and my sister. I remember assembling at school, getting into a double-decker bus with a little attaché case, my gas-mask and identity card. My number was BDBK 141/4. We were taken to Paddington station, then travelled by GWR train through to Llanwern, near Newport, Monmouthshire. My aunty and her baby were evacuated as well, but I don’t remember them being on the train.

We were taken to a golf course pavilion, full of ‘lost’ children. We were picked out just on looks. A Mr and Miss Williams (brother and sister) took us over to Bishton. They had a cottage, very picturesque. But we’d been there only a few weeks when we were moved, Phyllis to a farm, me to a nearby cottage, Moorview. There were already two brothers there, Philip and John Harris.

We were kept together as a school group at the village hall in Llanwern. Then I started going from Bishton to school in Risca – Pontywaun County School. I’d passed the relevant exam. It was a 1½ mile walk or cycle ride from Bishton to Llanwern, then a train to Newport and from Newport to Risca by bus, and the same journey in reverse on the way home. I used to count the telegraph poles as I passed by them.

Teachers came and went. The younger ones were called up; elderly ones came in. They wanted me to learn Welsh and to sing the Welsh National Anthem. Looking back, it was a very good school, but without my parents to push me, I didn’t take advantage of it. I was moved from Bishton to Risca to be nearer the school. While there, I had an evening job (at the age of 12!) at a cinema. I was paid seven-and-six [37½ p] per week for two hours each evening and Saturday afternoons. Consequently my school-work suffered and I failed to matriculate.

I came home [to London] with Phyllis at the end of 1943 because there was a lull in the raids on London. Phyllis got a job straight away and stayed in Highbury. For a little while I went to Highbury County School, until the doodlebugs started. They scared me witless. I went to Kirkby-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire. I had to get a job there and started work in a furniture shop. I just pottered about, working and reading.

I came home to London in May 1945, when the war ended.

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