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Evacuation - to St Neots

by sennapod

Contributed by 
sennapod
People in story: 
Sennapod
Location of story: 
St Neots Cambs
Article ID: 
A1997355
Contributed on: 
09 November 2003

In 1940 I was evacuated, aged three with my sister, 7 years older than I and my eight year old brother.

We found ourselves in the village hall at St Neots, Cambridgeshire (then it was Huntingdon shire), standing with many other London evacuees so that we could be allocated to local people.

My sister and I were given in the charge of 5 elderly spinsters whose father had been director of the local Paine's brewery; they lived in a rather grand house, on the square with the brewery behind the house.

The ladies were upper middle class, whereas we came from a poor south London family and had accents consitent with our background.

To us, the house was very grand. Three storeys and maids to look after our hosts (and us).

We were taught table manners and a rap over the knuckles with a spoon was the punishment for forgetting what we had been told. We were also encouraged to speak properly and it was not too long before we had absorbed middle class manners and speech.

If this makes the ladies sound like ogres, that is far from the truth. They were strict but they were very good to us and did more than they were required to do. They cared for as they would have their own children, had they had any.

I went to the local school and amongst the pupils in my class were the Miles quads who were national celebrities.

My brother was not as fortunate as we. He was billeted with a poor family on the other side of town and he was not treated at all well. The house where he stayed was overcrowded and the children were sleeping three to a bed. His treatment was so bad that even now, 60 years after the event, he finds the memories very upsetting.

My sister was determined to get home to London somehow and she manged to get hold of our savings books with a view to getting a train ticket to London. Clutching the savings book in one hand and my hand in the other we made our way to our brother's billet. There we asked the advice of one of the older daughters but she persuaded us to go back, which we did.

After two years, we did go back to London. By then I had quite a posh accent and was teased mercilessly by the local kids and i quickly reverted to cockneyspeak. ironically some 6 years later, I went to grammar school and had to change my accent yet again.

The old ladies who looked after us kept in touch and sent birthday cards and presents on each birthday for years after.

Looking back, the experience, although painful at times, was a beneficial one and probably had a great influence upon our lives. For good in my case, perhaps for bad in my brother's case.

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