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An Evacuee

by bedfordmuseum

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Sheila Jean Hope (nee Stephens)
Location of story: 
Enfield & Hertford
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
19 October 2005

I was evacuated on 3rd September 1939 aged 9 years with my brother. We left home on buses with our friends from St Matthew's School, Ponders End, Enfield. We carried just one change of clothing and were given a carrier bag each containing food for one week. (The duration the war was going to last!) I couldn't understand why my mum was crying; I thought it was just a holiday. All buses stopped at Hatfield House, then we had to stand around the trees in readiness to lie flat when the Air Raid Sirens sounded, to warn of enemy aircraft. Fortunately this did not happen, so we boarded the buses again, and were taken to a small village, Newgate Street, near Cuffley, and taken into the tiny village school. Lots of men and women were waiting to 'choose' their evacuee. My brother went with another boy to a farm and I went with 5 other girls to the Manor House with the Billeting Officer. We slept the first night on camp beds in the garage, he thought we wouldn't know any different, and wouldn't know how to use knives and forks.
The house was called 'Pondsbourne Manor', and the man was Mr Sharp. When we told our teacher the next day she was cross and we were moved into the maids' quarters and had breakfast and our glass of milk with the last maid left, in the huge kitchen. Our dinner and tea we had with an elderly couple
who lived down the lane and had two boy evacuees. My parents were able to come and visit us (by bus and then a long walk) but many could not, and because we only had one change of clothing; and of course the war did NOT finish after one week. My mother and other mums were able to collect clothing for those in need and a huge basketful was brought into the school to be distributed. I did not need any as my mother collected my dirty clothes each week and brought clean ones. Mr Sharp would not have our laundry done.
I remember a girl sitting next to me showed me the five vests she had been given and she was wearing them all!
We attended the school half-days and went into the playing field the other half of the day and the village children went to school the other times. We had to dig trenches in the school field for air raid shelters, and were given sheets of corrugated iron each to cover our heads. My brother became ill and went home so I didn't want to stay without him, so were were both home during November and spent the rest of the war in Enfield, living through all the air-raids and spending every night in our Anderson Shelter, emerging each morning to see all the bomb damage. We also spent a lot of time in the shelters at school, so did miss out on a lot of education.
I have vivid memories of the Battle of Britain over the blue skies, and watching the dog fights in the air, my father becoming so cross, he took his slipper off and threw it up to the sky to try to hit a German plane!!

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