- Contributed by
- CSV Actiondesk at BBC Oxford
- People in story:
- Ruth Johnson, nee Wagner
- Location of story:
- Basle, Switzerland
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 August 2005
“I was 14 years old. I lived close to the frontier [between Switzerland and Germany] and there was a fear that the Germans would invade, so the whole school was evacuated to the mountains, with the teachers. We stayed in a youth hostel and went skiing, we had few lessons. It was great fun. One month later we were sent back home.
Father was evacuated to Sarnen because he worked in a bank. All money was evacuated inland. Mother was left alone with three children to bring up. They evacuated the money first before the children and mothers! Mother was packed and ready in case of evacuation.
I was in the Girl Guides, leader of my section. One weekend we were camping. We went into the woods to pick wild mushrooms for supper. Suddenly we were stopped by the German Home Guard. We had strayed over the border. They told us to go back. Our parents were horrified, as much about the mushrooms as the Germans.
I remember being on duty to meet French children from Alsace, and Dutch children arriving at Basle station. They were being evacuated. They were bathed and sent with provision inland to be billeted on local families.
Switzerland was a strange, free locked-in country. I adored Churchill and everything English. I came to England in 1947 to learn English. On arrival I had to have a swab taken from the inside of my mouth to check for disease. I missed sugar which wasn’t rationed inSwiterland. The Swiss were rationed but much had been stockpiled before the war. Our coal came from Germany and grain from Italy. There was a fuel shortage. We had central heating but had to use two wood burning stoves instead. There was a shortage of bread, so we ate bread made from potatoes.
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