- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Eric Pringle
- Location of story:
- Wandsworth to Reading
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 17 December 2003
Evacuation 1939 Wandsworth to Reading
My early recollection of WW2 was activity at the Queens Regiment Drill Hall at Clapham Junction where my father, a WW1 veteran attended British Legion functions. It must have been early 1939 and I was 8 years old, I was aware of furtive discussions amongst the adults about impending doom of war, I remember their fears being transmitted to me somehow and being very concerned and worried.
I do remember quite clearly Friday September 1 1939. Most of the pupils of Eltringham St. Elementary School were shepherded along to Wandsworth Town railway station to be transported away as part of the mass evacuation of London’s children. My brother, Dennis, 3 years my senior accompanied me with strict instructions from Mother to keep close to me and refuse to be parted. We both had our meagre possessions in haversacks that Mother had fashioned from the linen sacks from the “Bagwash”. Off we all went not knowing the destination, eventually reaching a town called Reading, the more educated of us recognising the word and telling all in our carriage that we were at a remote part of the Empire called “Reeding”.
We were put aboard buses and taken to a very fine school called “Redlands” (which today in Reading no one seems to have heard of). We were collected together in a laboratory type of classroom to await collection by patriotic housewives willing to accommodate us. I recall that we each were given a bottle of milk and a whole bar of chocolate, a whole bar! I thought that if this war I might get to enjoy it. Many times I or my brother were selected to join with a prospective Foster parent, but my brother stood firm and refused to be parted from me, insisting that we were only available as a pair. Eventually we were the only remaining children, all the others being claimed and taken off. Still Dennis stood firm. At last the lady running the show had no alternative but to take us herself. I well remember the lady, Mrs Clacey. A Mrs. Brown look alike straight from the pages of “Just William”, complete with feathered hat and fox fur. This wonderful lady took us to her home. My brother and I shared the double bed in the spare (guest) room, which, as we were accustomed to sleeping 3 to a bed was quite luxurious.
The house seemed magnificent to us, with carpets, bathroom and a garden. Just coming from a LCC flat within the vast East Hill Estate Wandsworth these were features foreign to us. It all seemed quite wonderful. In fact visiting the Street (Devauboir Road) many years later it actually was a quite ordinary terraced House, but at that time it really seemed like a Palace to us.
There were no children in the family, just Mr. And Mrs Clacey, lovely people who gave us plenty of TLC. Mr. Clacey I believe was a Manager in a local garage, and often had the use of a car. I had never been in a car up to then but he would drive us around on various errands, They owned a few cottages in Newbury and made the rounds to collect rents weekly, my brother and I were privileged to accompany him, much to the envy of our school chums.
This became a very formative time for me, I was introduced to a different style of living to that which I had been brought up, I suppose one would call it lower middle class, whereas I was very definitely working class. The Claceys were house owners for a start, I was not even aware that people actually purchased houses. I recall that we were given a rabbit and Mr.Clacey constructed a fine hutch to keep it in, he made toys of all description for Dennis and I, some of which we kept for years. We attended our new school, Redlands and were very happy. On the approach to Christmas 1939, many treats were planned for us, but sometime in December our parents, along with many others decided that as there had been no terror air raids, it seemed pointless for us to remain away from home, and so we were collected and taken home. Our new- found foster parents I remember were heart broken; I suppose we were the children they never had. I was quite sad to say goodbye to the “good living” that I had discovered at Reading, but I am forever grateful to that wonderful couple Mr. And Mrs. Clacey. And the introduction to fine things, which I suppose, has inspired me throughout life to strive for greater things for myself and family
We of course arrived back home in good time to face the German Blitz onslaught in 1940, including the fearful night of the landmine taking out part of the LCC Estate in which we continued to live throughout the war. But that is another story
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