- Contributed by
- People in story:
- june stillman
- Location of story:
- Elstow, Bedfordshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 January 2004
Good comes from evil
Although the war sprang from the evil which hung over Europe for me good was to come which would shape my life.
I spent my early years in care with the Middlesex County Council and lived with 11 other children in Cricklewood. At the age of 7 years 3 months the outbreak of war came and I was evacuated to a tiny village in Bedfordshire. People were obliged to have evacuees, if they had room, so it was not always
a happy situation. My first billet was however, with quite a nice lady but unfortunately for various reasons this only lasted 3 months. I only moved next door but with a couple who had no children themselves and really didn’t know how to handle an evacuee. This was not a very happy home and
my stay only lasted 9 months. By now I was getting quite used to packing my small case and this time I went to a young couple who had a daughter a little younger than I was. In this house I was wrongly blamed for many things such as breaking her toys. I was here for only 3 months. I was a very quiet child with no confidence and I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Now 8 years 6 months I again packed my small case and moved to my fourth billet but this time it really did seem to be a good move. It was a home which obviously was filled with love, something I had never experienced in my short life and which I found difficult to handle for sometime. Here for the first time I became part of
This tiny thatched 3 roomed cottage had no inside toilet and the water tap was in the garden which always seemed to freeze in the cold weather. No electricity, we had a lamp in the room we lived in
and candles were lit when going to bed. We cooked in an oven by an open fire which did mean we
had to have a fire for most of the day. In spite of all this it was a happy home. I went to the village school from the age of 7 until I was 14. Owing to the mass of evacuees that had arrived in this village
I remember at one time there were as many as 60 in a class. It didn’t stop us being taught the well known basics of the time, the 3 R’s. These large numbers however started to dwindle as the war went on as many of the evacuees became very home sick and so parents came to take their child home, I
had no home to be homesick for.
Although I was with a very kind lady in this home I was still in care with the Middlesex County Council and would be so until the age of 18.
As time went by I gained more confidence I joined the village Chapel went to Sunday School also joined the Girls’ Life Brigade and a tennis club, and later a folk dance group.
What can I remember about rationing. There are a few things that come to mind as there were some things that were rationed for a number of years after the war. I remember having only being able to buy 12 ounces of sweets per month (3 ounces per week)
Meat was something else rationed, even cooked meats. So to make the 2 ounces of corned beef
(per head) go further it was turned into a hash. Even today I enjoy a corned beef hash. My extra portion of cheese is another thing I remember quite clearly. I made a regular weekly visit to friends where the husband who worked on the railway was entitled to extra cheese, so he always insisted I should bring a little home. We had a weekly treat of cheese on toast.
Bananas were short in demand for many years. In fact I had never had one until I was about 12 and then I had to watch someone peel theirs before I could eat mine. Clothing was another thing that you had to have coupons for. I remember when at school we got extra coupons if you were over a certain weight or a certain height. Neither of these did I qualify for, but I did get them for my big feet all of
It was in 1940/41 that application for Evacuation Overseas was issued, but this was not granted. If this had been granted, I might have ended up living in Australia or Canada.
It was the usual procedure at the age of 14 for girls to go into service and boys to work on the farm this enabled them to live in. I was only 13 when the war ceased and as I was allowed to stay in this last billet and be legally fostered I didn’t have to return to London after the war. So the war did me a big favour. A difficult beginning but a happy ending thanks to the kindness shown by the lady in my fourth billet. June Stillman
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