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"War Time" with a happy ending

by cornwallcsv

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cornwallcsv
People in story: 
Pauline Elizabeth Morris
Location of story: 
Newquay, Cornwall
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4400254
Contributed on: 
08 July 2005

Pauline (age 16) and Michael (age 18) - just engaged

"This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger M Judge [ie you, the volunteer] on behalf of Pauline Elizabeth Morris [ie the author] and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions."

I was born on January 4 1931 - the only child of Albert and Elizabeth Mercer. We lived in Wanstead, Essex. My first memories of the war were when I was evacuated to Burch Hanger in Hertfordshire. I was only there for a short time as my parents thought I should come home, believing that the war was not going to happen as the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain said "there will be peace in our time." I was not at home long before war was declared. I remember being in Aldersbrook School and we were all sitting on the floor in the hall. I didn't understand what was going to happen, but I took home a letter to mum and dad and later I was told that I was going to the seaside. My mother was asked if she would consider travelling with the school as some chldren were under 5 years of age and they needed someone to take care of them. As my father was working on government work, being an instrument maker, he was busy making parts etc., for weapons and could not leave London, so me and my mum agreed she could go with the school. I was very excited going on holiday not knowing how things would alter my entire life.

The train journey to Cornwall was an adventure for me and with approximately 400 children and 15 teachers it was the most exciting thing I had done. When we arrived at Newquay Station I remember seeing lots of "grown-ups" - why were they there, I wondered. Then a gentleman called Mr White spoke to the teachers and they called out our names for the people who were going to foster the evacuees. By now, some of the little ones were getting tired and tearful so my mum was kept busy with them. We were taken to the Great Western Hotel, then I and my mum and some children went to the Trelawney Hotel in Edgecombe Avenue, owned by Major Pitsie, and I stayed there for a while, but lots of children started to go back to their parents in London. The hotel was taken over by the Forced as billets. I then went to live with Mr and Mrs Shrimpton, a local jeweller, and stayed with them until I was 13 years old. My mum, meanwhile, stayed in Newquay, first working at Newquay Laundry and then in a hotel and I was able to stay with her in rooms she rented in "Forest". Next door lioved the Morris family who had also been evacuated from London and their eldest son, Michael and I started to go out together and on my 16th birthday, we got engaged. 4 years later on December 29 1951 we were married and went to London on honeymoon but we never returned to live in London. Perhaps we might not have met each other in London - if it had not been for the war, who knows? But after 54 years of marriage we are still as happy as the day we met in 1944 ...

When I first came to Newquay I had to go to the Claremont Church which we used as classrooms, then we used Wesley Church but after a time we were able to go to Crantock Street School where I remained until I left school at 14 to work in Mr R Smith's chemist shop for 15 shillings a week. I worked from 9am until 6pm with 1 hour off for lunch and no tea breaks. We both have many happy memories of our early days in Newquay. Michael worked on the building of the runways etc., at RAF St Mawgan. My mother never returned to London. Their marriage was a casualty of the war - she lived to be 103 and loved Newquay and Newquay people. My husband and I take a very active interest in the RNLI. I have been the Ladies Guild Chairman over 30 years and my husband was crew member and honorary secretary of Newquay lifeboat, so we have both given something back to Cornwall.

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