- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Dorothy Winifred Jones nee Coe
- Location of story:
- Luton, Bedfordshire
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 March 2004
I was evacuated with Haverstock Central School for Girls, Hampstead, on the 1st of September 1939 at the age of 12 and-a-half years. During the previous fortnight all London schoolchildren had to report to their respective schools every morning taking with them a brown paper carrier bag or a small case containing a change of clothes and toiletries ready for the evacuation. We also had to take our gas mask. At the end of the fortnight on the 1st of September 1939 the Government advised that all London schoolchildren should be evacuated to safer parts of the country as soon as possible. At 9.30am on that day all the girls from my school were taken on double decker 'buses to Kentish Town station to the waiting trains. Nobody knew our destination, only the train driver - we were just told we were going to the country and would probably be returning home in a fortnight's time. Some children did, in fact, return after a fortnight due to homesickness and their parents' anxieties.
The packed trains started off with the children,
teachers and helpers, the first stop being St. Albans where the girls from Parliament Hill School left the train. The next stop was Luton station from where the remaining children were taken in 'buses to Reception Centres in local schools. Each child's throat was then examined by a doctor and each child was given sandwiches and a drink together with an emergency food parcel containing tea, sugar, butter and tinned corned beef for the Hostess.
At about 4pm the children formed a line of two abreast to walk from the Reception Centre at Denbigh Road School around nearby roads to be billeted. I was billeted with two older girls in Montrose Aveneue but after three weeks our Hostess felt that three girls were too much to look after and I moved to a house nearby. There was not enough room in the local schools to accommodate both the local children and the evacuees so both groups only attended for half a day and we spent the afternoons in Wardown Park having lessons there. If it happened to rain we made a dash for the Museum which was in the park.
Whilst I lived in Montrose Avenue many of the neighbours invited me to tea and I made friends with one particular girl of my age. However, her family moved during the early part of the War and I did not hear of her again until my daughter of twenty-three was working at St. Bartholomew's Hospital. She happened to mention that she often had her lunch with Maureen who was about my age and when she brought home the hospital magazine there was a picture of Maureen in it which I recognised instantly as the girl who had befriended me. The next day my daughter told Maureen that her mother was the evacuee who had often had tea with her nearly forty years ago!
I stayed in Montrose Aveneue until April 1940 when again my Hostess said that she could no longer keep me so I moved into a billet in Argyll Aveneue with two girls in my class. In the meantime I had transferred from Haverstock to the North Western Polytechnic to take a two-year course in Court Dressmaking. By this time the school had bought a house in Brook Street which was suitable for classrooms and this house was used for our school until the end of the War. Everyone was expected to help the War effort and the girls at my school knitted garments for the Forces from wool supplied by the W.V.S. I personally knitted an extra large pullover for someone in the the Air Force.
All three girls in the billet got on very well together and we were very happy. Our Host and Hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Appleton, had no children of their own so it must have been quite a shock to have three teenage girls living in their home. Our rations were supplemented by plenty of vegetables and fruit which we helped to pick on the two allotments owned by Mr. Appleton so we had a particularly healthy diet and were never hungry. Any spare fruit was bottled in Kilner jars for the winter months. Bread was delivered every other day by two elderly brothers in a pony and trap and milk delivered from a local farm was poured into a jug on the doorstep from a milkchurn.
In 1942 I finished my course at the Polytechnic but could not leave Luton as by that time I had no relatives. I then took a year's course in secretarial work at a Commercial School and on completion in March 1943 was offered a post in the Almoner's Department at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital. During that summer the doodlebugs were launched by Germany and one fell on a local factory killing and injuring many workers. It was a state of emergency at the hospital and I was assigned to direct all the casualties to the appropriate wards.
Mr. and Mrs. Appleton very kindly agreed to be my Guardians until I reached twenty-one years of age after which I stayed with them for another three years until I married. At the end of the War Mr. and Mrs. Appleton received a letter from Queen Elizabeth thanking them for their contribution to the War effort in caring for a total of 28 evacuees.
I shall always admire and be grateful to the people of Luton who so generously took complete strangers into their homes and cared for them.
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