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15 October 2014
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A story of evacuation from Medway to South Wales

by medwaylibraries

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Joan Streatfield (nee Joan Richardson), Margaret Richardson, Ron Richardson
Location of story: 
Princes Street, Rochester, Kent; Monmouthshire, South Wales
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
04 October 2005

Joan Streatfield (nee Richardson) is 75 years old and was born in 1930

It was back in the summer of 1939, when I was just a little girl of nine years old. I was with my twin sister and some friends who lived in Princes Street, Rochester, Kent. Just like all children at our age, we went up to the recreation ground to play. It was a boiling hot day and we were all enjoying the nice weather and were playing Mums and Dads, just like kids used to. All of a sudden, we heard a strange noise that seemed to come from all over the place. It was the start of every child’s and adult’s trouble. It was the first air raid siren we heard. A passer-by said “All of you children had better run home to your Mums and Dads!” We ran all the way home and it seemed to take a long time to reach home. When we finally reached the bottom of our street, all our Mums and Dads and neighbours were all on the doorsteps of our houses. Some were crying and some were comforting one another. They were all upset. Yes it was 3rd September 1939 and World War Two had just broken out. As we reached the long winding road it was a sight we would never forget for all our lives.

The next few days and months were hard. We all had to be fitted up with gas masks and identity cards and ration books for food and clothing. Dug-outs were delivered to our homes and arrangements were made for us to have lessons at home. One or two of us went to neighbours’ houses, as when we went to school the air raid siren used to go and we all went to the shelter! We didn’t have a lot of schooling, didn’t have a lot of money, but Mum always made us food and worked hard. There were five of us in the family. Our baby sister Dorothy was just two years old and she had a nice little gas mask like Mickey Mouse. I can remember it as though it were yesterday. When things got very bad, they decided to evacuate some of the children and Mum thought it would be best for us to go. At first we went to a little place called Elham near Canterbury, Kent. We all said our goodbyes, and we had tears in our eyes, as we didn’t want to go. We arrived at a big school with our gas masks and labels tied onto our coats. We were all picked out to go to different homes. I can’t remember who I stayed with, but it was worse than at home. Because they found out that a big mistake had been made, we all had to go back home after two months as it was too near the coast and there was more bombing than we had at home. Mum was still worried about us, so we went to the shelter and slept there. If it was cold we went under the stairs.

After a while we were evacuated to Monmouthshire, South Wales. We went by train and it was a very long journey. It was a steam train so we couldn’t put our heads out of the windows to look around. My brother Ron, my sister Margaret and myself were on the train and in fact all the children on the train came from Rochester and Chatham, so we knew many of them.

When we arrived in Wales we were taken to a big hall and they gave us a glass of milk while we were waiting. Then people came and chose a girl or boy that they thought would be suitable for them. A lady came and chose my twin sister Margaret but they hadn’t got room for two, so a Mrs Jones took me and then I was so upset and cried for my sister and couldn’t sleep because we always slept in the same bed and I missed her very much. So the billeting officer decided that twins should be kept together.

Mrs Edwards was the lady and she was very kind to us. Everyone in the village spoke different to us and it sounded very strange. We went to the village school which stood up a hill and we climbed lots of steps. There were no sirens and we didn’t hear any aeroplanes. It was very peaceful. We used to go up the mountains to pick whinberries so Mrs Edwards could make pies for our tea. We took some sandwiches with us but the cows came and eat them so we ran away. We had never seen a cow close up before, because we lived in a town.

Every Sunday morning we had to go to chapel. Mrs Edwards liked us to be very smart and clean and she gave us some nice clothes that had got too small for her daughter, but we looked very good in them.

Our Mum came all the way to Wales. Although it was very hard in London because of the bombs, she brought our baby sister Dorothy with her. Our Dad was working in Swindon making aeroplanes in a factory, so he couldn’t come with her. She was so pleased to see us and thought we looked very well. It put her mind at rest to know we were happy and being made welcome in Mrs Edwards’ home.

I came home when I was 14 years old in 1945. The war was at an end and there were street parties. People bought pianos out into the street and played all our favourite songs. Flags were put up across the street and everyone danced and sang. We were so pleased to be free again. No more blackouts, all the lights came on, they had been dark for nearly six years. Peace at last and we could get back to our normal lives. Mr Hitler had been beaten.

My sister died 16 years ago, but before she died she decided she wanted to go back to where we had been so happy during the war. She went to South Wales, to Mrs Edwards old house and she knocked on the door. A lady answered and Margaret asked if Mrs Edwards was there. The lady said “No, but I am her daughter, Bernice, and I remember you Margaret!” They had a nice cup of tea and then Bernice showed her lots of photographs of when we were young. She spoke of the time when I was learning to knit with two bits of wood from a tree.

How do you think you would feel if you had to leave your Mum, Dad, Brothers, Sisters, Grans and Grandads and all you school friends. We had to because there was a war, so we will all hope it never happens again.

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