- Contributed by
- CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
- People in story:
- Mary Moss, Arthur Moss, James Moss, Alice & Bill Moss Eliza James, John James
- Location of story:
- East End of London & St. Just, Cornwall
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 August 2005
Many families were torn apart during the war years 1939/1945 and our family were no exception. Along with many other children we were evacuated to safer parts of the country to escape the ‘blitz’ and heavy bombing raids and as hard as it was for us to leave familiar surroundings, but especially our parents, how very difficult it must have been for them to send such young children away to unknown destinations, to go to a home where they had no idea how they would be treated or cared for and, indeed, if and when they would see them again — many parents must have suffered so much having to make such a huge decision.
In our case, my brothers and I were sent to CORNWALL and I doubt that many people from our part of London would have known just how far away it was or even where it was! Along with other children from local schools, we were all assembled and suitably ‘labelled’ with our name, age and destination, this label being pinned very securely to our clothing. The first of many strange experiences came when we were put on the train at Paddington: not many of us ever having been in a station or on a train before, and then the journey to PENZANCE that seemed endless and lasted 9 hours or more. The only food and drink we had during this time was the little we had been able to carry with us and by the time we reached our destination we were absolutely exhausted and very hungry as well as being very frightened and very apprehensive. Our ordeal did not end in Penzance though: we were then transported by bus to a very small town about 10 miles from LANDS END called ST. JUST where we were taken to the Town Hall with other children to be allocated or ‘picked’ by any kind person that would have us!
Before leaving home my parents had strongly warned my brothers that we were not to be separated at any cost, we were to stay together and they were to look after their baby sister without fail — or else! Considering they were only ten and twelve themselves and their baby sister just four it was a very big responsibility, but with my mother’s words ringing in their ears they rejected and resisted all attempts to be separated from each other or me! One or two farming families would have willingly taken my brothers but did not want a small child as well: others offered to take me but not my brothers and so we were left after all the other children had been picked by various people — my brothers tell me that we were a really pathetic and sorry sight but they continued to hold onto each other and me for dear life! It was then that a very kindly part time fireman and council worker called JOHN JAMES took pity on us and our wretched plight and said he was sure his mother, although being rather elderly, would not hesitate to take all three of us and he took us home with him to BOTALLACK, a small hamlet outside St. Just.
Our home with Mrs JAMES and her son was in a very small stone built, white-washed cottage and although we have some old photos of it which show how picturesque it looked, I am not sure it was all that comfortable inside with no running water, no electricity and only outside toilet facilities! The well which supplied our main source of fresh water was about half a mile away and I know my brothers remembered very vividly making this journey many times. Of course, rain water was collected and used for most washing and cleaning purposes. We were so very lucky because the whole James’ family looked after us and cared for us as though we were their own; we could not have had a better family to take us in. Mrs James was a wonderful cook and her very traditional Cornish pasties, cooked in an old coal fired range, were absolutely delicious, a true meal in themselves. Clotted cream was also one of her specialities, made with fresh milk from the farm nearby and left to ‘set’ overnight on top of a cupboard, no worries about it being ‘contaminated’ or not being in a fridge in those days! We spent many happy times collecting large quantities of blackberries to be made into pies and the eaten with that lovely cream!
My brothers, Arthur and Jimmy walked to a small Catholic school every day in PENDEEN (past the old GEEVOR TIN MINE which was still in operation at that time) about two and a half miles each way, and after school and during the holidays made themselves useful on a local farm, working hard but enjoying it nevertheless. The East End of London could not have been more different from the lovely countryside we found ourselves in — Cape Cornwall was very nearby, a most beautiful spot, and we spent many happy hours there.
We eventually moved with Mrs James to a terraced house in St. Just itself, which was a bit bigger than the cottage not much, it must be said, but it did have running water! There were no facilities for a Catholic education in St. Just, and Pendeen was too far away so the boys attended the Church of England school and were encouraged to attend Sunday School at the Chapel.
During these years the rest of my family, including aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. spent many nights in the basement of the LLOYD’S building in the City of London when not sleeping in the local Underground station. My mother helped to run the canteen in Lloyds and on one special occasion the BBC obtained permission to record their very popular programme ‘IN TOWN TONIGHT’ from there, although, because of security reasons, this was not disclosed at the time. Among others, my mother was able to send us an individual message, it was so wonderful to hear her voice when the programme was broadcast; she mentioned Christmas presents to come, which later that year one of my sisters was able to bring down to us, and by some miracle my mother and father were able themselves to travel down later to see us and we have some happy photos ( a bit yellowed now of course) to remind us of this wonderful occasion — where the film and camera came from remains a mystery with all the restrictions in force at that time.
For us three then, some of the awful war years were fairly happy ones and we were indeed most fortunate to find such a kind and sympathetic family to take us in — other evacuees can relate very different stories where they were not treated with such kindness. After the war, I spent some holidays in St. Just with Mrs James and her family and have the most wonderful and heartwarming memories of that very loving and caring, elderly lady and her son who took such pity on three lost souls from London!
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