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My Evacuation: London to Suffolk by Boat

by Len_W_Crawley

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Len Crawley
Location of story: 
Thurrock, Essex
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
03 March 2004

I was living at 10 West Street, S. Stifford (now called Chalton St) with mum Ellen, Dad Albert, siblings John, Betty, & Joan. We were informed that we had to meet at Mill Lane Stifford School at 7am on 3rd Sept, where we were taken by red double decker bus to Tilbury Landing Stage. Being 8 years old I knew that something was going on but not sure what, mum was with us as there were 4 of us. Dad was working at the Thames Board Mills and also fire watching and other ARP services so he had to stay at home.
My only other boat trip I had ever taken was on the ferry to Gravesend, the evacuation boat was a large paddle steamer, used before as a day tripping boat called the Royal Eagle or the Golden Eagle (there were two boats and I cannot remember what one I was on!)
We went down the Thames into the North Sea, and while on board the boat at 11 am, they put Chamberlain speech over the tannoy system, telling us all that Britain had declared war with Germany. In due course we arrived at Felixstowe pier, the other boat went on to Lowestoft pier.
We were taken to a school or church hall building in Felixstowe, were we stayed for the night sleeping on straw filled palyases and a couple of blankets.
The next day we were taken to Coggleshall, where we were then transfered to Leveringham in Suffolk. Our billet was a thatched cottage with a lady and her son.
To fetch water we had to pump it from across the lane, we were used to piped water in Thurrock. The toilet was at the bottom of the cottage about 50 yards away. We had to sit on a plank with a hole in it, and I think that was washed into the river running behind the garden - a world away from our usual luxury throne with proper seat and flush.
The cottage was one of a group of 8, with a farm about a quarter of a mile up the road,n where we used to go every day and was given a lot of apples, and cob nuts. My mother & eldest brother had a half mile walk to the nearest bus stop, then a half hour ride into Ipswich when we needed any provisions. Then there was the return journey with the shopping.
We was there only a fortnight because mum fed up with the bus journeys into Ipswitch phoned dad who sent uncle Horace Bloomfield to pick us up and take us home.
One of my fondest memories was putting on my gas mask, sneeking up the stairs and jumping out on the lady and her son who were billeting with us.

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