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Memories of World War Two and Evacuation to Teignmouth, Devon

by margaret_nicholas

Contributed by 
margaret_nicholas
People in story: 
Margaret Whitelock
Location of story: 
Plymouth and Teignmouth, Devon
Article ID: 
A1988751
Contributed on: 
07 November 2003

I was eight years old when the war started and, living in Plymouth, a Dockyard town, we were destined to be bombed fairly heavily.

After several nights of very heavy bombing, the army offered to transport families out to Dartmoor each evening for safety. We had to congregate at a certain point and were driven out to the depths of the moor in an army truck. Eventually, we halted outside a schoolhouse, only to be told that it was full, but were told that if we cared to walk a mile (which felt like five to an 8 year old late at night), we would find shelter there.

I remember my mother covering me with a blanket on the floor of an old building and I tried to sleep. I kept hearing a loud squeaking sound and discovered that there was a man lying beside me unscrewing his wooden leg! As it turned out, Plymouth was not bombed that night so we didn't go again.

Everybody had an Anderson Shelter in their garden (if one had a garden) and for those who didn't have one, there were big underground shelters dotted around the area in school grounds etc. I remember going to school one morning and when opening the classroom door, the floor was covered in sawdust which was covering bloodstains. The underground shelter in our school playground had been hit by a mine and the dead bodies had been laid out in my classroom. Some of my friends were amongst those killed. We were sent home for the day. We used to collect shrapnel (fragments of bombs) and compare sizes with our friends.

Another sharp memory I have, is of standing at the back door of our house waiting for a 'lull' in the bombing in order to run to the bottom of the garden to the shelter. We could see an enemy aircraft in the sky which had been hit and the pilot was bailing out. All the neighbours were cheering and my mother said to us, 'don't cheer - that is someone's son.' I never forgot that.

Everything was rationed. Each person was allowed per weeek(approximately) - 4oz. bacon/ham, 1lb. meat, 2oz. butter, 2-8oz. cheese, 2oz. tea, 12oz. sugar, 2oz. margarine, 2 pints milk, 12oz. sweets and 1 small egg and 1 pkt dried egg every 4 weeks.

Later on I was evacuated to Teignmouth where we lived in a convent with the nuns that accompanied us. We went to school in a big house just up the road from the convent.There were no Science, Art, Music or Domestic Science rooms, just bare rooms with tables and chairs in. So, for instance, instead of Science, we had to study Botany which didn't require equipment.

We were never allowed near the town but once I was taken to the dentist which was in the town and as we walked alongside the beach, I noticed that it was covered in barbed wire to stop enemy boats landing there. In fact, all the beaches surrounding our coastline were strewn with barbed wire for the duration of the war.

When I came back to Plymouth after the war, there was hardly a building left standing. It was a very sad time, yet the bond between people at that time, remains unparalleled.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Teignmouth

Posted on: 01 June 2004 by Paddon

During the contributor's evacuation stay in Teignmouth can she remember the approximate location of the LAA gun batteries around the town?
I travelled on a train to Newton Abbot on a Friday in 1943, the train was attacked by a JU88. The pest was driven off by Teignmouth LAA. It would be nice to thank those men for saving us all.
I still have a vivid memory of the stabs of flame from the six cannon in the nose of a very angry Jerry!

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

The Blitz Category
Childhood and Evacuation Category
Rationing Category
Devon Category
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