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My Nan's Lucky Escape

by Natalie Ofield

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Devon

Contributed by 
Natalie Ofield
People in story: 
Gretta Atkins
Location of story: 
Isle of Wight
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 August 2003

My nan told me this story when I was about 11 years old when I was questioning her about her time in the war. Sadly she passed away 13 years ago this year,but I believe this is a great chance to tell one of her many stories.

When the War started my nan and her family lived on the Isle of Wight. Her family consisted of Mother and Father,3 brothers and 3 sisters. My Great Grandmother was getting increasingly worried about the threat to the Isle from bombing raids and also the possibility of a German invasion, so she decided that she would have the children evacuated off the island.

She had organised to have her small family evacuated to Canada on one of the many ships that were deporting youngsters to safer countries within the Commonwealth.

Now I cannot remember whether my Great Grandmother had a change of heart, or whether one of the children got sick that prevented them from making their crossing. But I believe it was a blessing, as if not my nan and her siblings, myself, my sister and mother would not be here today. As unfortunately the ship they were meant to have been on was callously bombed on the way over to Canada and I believe there was huge loss of life.

When my Great Grandmother heard of this she then decided that she did not wish to send the children abroad as it was too risky, so it was decided that the whole family would move from the Isle of Wight to North Devon. They settled on a small seaside town called Woolacombe, which was plenty far away from the dangerous areas of Devon such as Exeter and Plymouth that were constantly getting bombed.

For the first few months of living in Woolacombe my nan told me that herself and her family were called "Corkheads" and it took a long time for them to realise what this meant. The origin of it was that as her family had come over from the Isle of Wight, the locals believed they bobbed over like corks caught in the sea current,hence the name "Corkheads".

To this day my nan's remaining siblings still live in the North Devon area ,between Woolacombe and Ilfracombe,with my nan being the only who moved further afield to Exeter when she was older.

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