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Life as an Evacuee

by csvdevon

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
John Stapley
Location of story: 
Northampton / London
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
26 September 2005

I was only four years old when the second world war started and i was one of the children evacuated from London at the beginning of September 1939. I came from a large family and whilst my eldest brothers were old enough to join the services the rest of us were aged from eleven to three years old. I remember going on the train with a little bag of clothes and my Mickey Mouse gas mask which we had to carry everywhere and on our coats we had a label with our name and address on it. We eventually arrived at a small village in Northamptonshire where we were put in a hall. Strangers cane in and began picking out children that they would take and my older brothers and sisters were soon chosen but soon I was the only child left. I was then taken around the village until someone eventually took me in. I went to the village school where we had normal school lessons but we also had to go out and pick wild rosehips which were made into syrup and pick stinging nettles too wich were used to make dye for camouflage.

Later I was moved to the next village and stayed with my older brothers on a small farm. The cottage we lived in had a thached roof, had no electricity or running water, and only had one fire with a hob for cooking. We had to fetch all our water in buckets from the well which was a hundred yards from the cottage. The toilet was in a shed at the back and was just a wooden box with a hole in it abouve a bucket. The bucket was emptied every morning into a neearby pit. We had an oil lamp for the room where we sat at night but we used candles when we went to bed. I didn't have a bed of my own but we slept three to a bed. In the summer we quite often went barefoot to save our shoes wearing out. Before school in the morning we had various jobs to do such as feeding the hens and collecting their eggs, feeding the pigs or picking potatoes or vegetables. In the summer we helped on the farm gathering in the corn at harvest time. We quite often helped milk the cows which were all milked by hand as there was no electricity.

I remember once in the winter I developed a poisoneed arm. It was snowing but my brothers and i walked five miles to see the doctor in the next village. The doctor cut my arm open with his penknife, squeezed the poison out, bandaged it, and then we had to walk five miles back.

There was a tragedy in our family early in the war when our brother Ronald aged only 15 volunteered to become a fireman messanger. He was killed in the blitz on London in october 1940 when trying to rescue people from a house.

We didn't see our mother for two years when she came to fetch us to take us back home to London. I can remember one day on the way to school I heard a doodle bug which was a type of flying bomb. When the engines stopped we knew the bomb was going to fall down and explode so i ran the last few yards to school. I had a lucky escape as i heard the explosion after i dashed into the shelter which was in the cloakroom underneath the school. Each morning we used to look around the class to find out who was not there because they had either been killed or injured. There was much relief when the war ended and we went to parties in the streets to celebrate.

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