- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Arthur Princep
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 May 2005
This story was submitted to the BBC WW2 People’s War site by Mrs M A Nallen of St Benedict’s Catholic High School on behalf of Arthur Princep and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
I was born in 1932 which meant that I was 7 when the Second World War was declared in 1939. My sister, Peggy, was 5 and our younger brother, Roy, was 3.
Because we lived in Aston, an inner city area of Birmingham, there were lots of factories around and during wartime, most of them were used to manufacture fighter aircraft, weapons and ammunition to help the fight against the Germans. Naturally, these factories were a prime target as the enemy’s mission would be to locate and destroy all such buildings and therefore stop this manufacture.
Also, our school was very close to where we lived and so as to make sure that we were all well away from the danger of stray bombs, the Government recommended that all children of school age who lived in industrial areas, be evacuated to the countryside.
This meant that Peggy and I were sent to a small village called Worthington near to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Although this was only approximately 40 to 45 miles from where we lived, we were surrounded by open countryside and it was unlikely that any bombs would be dropped there.
As our Father was a skilled engineer and therefore ordered to go and work in Pontypridd in Wales , where his skills would be utilised to carry out whatever work was needed to aid the war effort, we were taken by our Mother to Aston Station, as were all the other evacuees. Our Mother gave us an orange each (we wondered where she had managed to get these from as they were very scarce) and told me not to let anyone separate us. I can’t remember much about the journey but I do remember waiting in the school hall in Worthington for someone to take us to their home.
I was taken by Mr and Mrs Smith to live with them on their farm but unfortunately they left Peggy behind. Eventually, she was taken by a couple to their home in a small cottage outside the village but she cried constantly and kept asking for me. Later that evening, as it was clear she was not going to settle, they found out where I was and Peggy remembers a black car arriving to take her to find me. She recalls being so upset and now laughs when she recalls finding me sitting quite happily reading a comic in front of the fire at the farmhouse. At first, the Smiths agreed that Peggy could stay for a day or two until she had overcome the shock of having to leave her parents in Birmingham but then decided we could both live with them. I recall Mr and Mrs Smith being ‘older’ people with grown-up sons and they were all very kind.
We were lucky to have been placed with such a caring family, although I did have to help with odd jobs on the farm. One chore I did not enjoy was that I had to take a small herd of cows and their bull from the farm, along a lane and into a field. I was terrified of the bull in particular because he seemed so big. Of course, Peggy was only 5 and a girl, so she didn’t have to do anything!
Neither of us can remember much about the school we attended in Worthington and are not sure why. We recall it was very small with not many children, even though there were other evacuees which would have swelled their numbers. Back in Aston, our school was typical of that in any inner city and would have contained more than a hundred children.
We both remember Mr and Mrs Smith taking us to church three times every Sunday as we found this most unusual. Although our parents would consider themselves Christians, we never went to Church!
Unfortunately, Mrs Smith had a heart attack and was no longer to look after us and we were sent to a nearby farm. This time we were placed with a couple who hadn’t any children and who were also very kind. Our Mother visited as regularly as she could but was disturbed by comments made by the couple that they would like to ‘keep us’ and so after almost 2 years, she fetched us back to Birmingham.
When we returned home, the war was more intense and many buildings had been destroyed. Some people had installed air raid shelters in their gardens but we had to go a few hundred yards along the road to a shelter that we shared with others. If the sirens sounded and we were in bed then we had to get up and make our way to the shelter.
One recollection was having to stay in the shelter all night waiting for the ‘all clear’ (constant sound). We returned home the next morning to find that two incendiary bombs had hit our house so it was a good job we had taken shelter. For some time we had to live with our grandparents until the house had been repaired.
Although some of my memories have faded, I can vividly remember how much I hated being away from home and although my asthma improved due to the clean country air, I longed to be back home.
Researcher Aimee Topham.
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