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Evacuating London

by Lancshomeguard

Contributed by 
Lancshomeguard
People in story: 
Philip and Lena Lewis
Location of story: 
London (East End) to Bishop Stortford
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4102255
Contributed on: 
22 May 2005

This story has been submitted to the People's War Website by Gavin Lea on behalf of Phillip and Lena Lewis and has been added to the site with their permission.

I was born in 1936 and am just coming up 69 now. My family lived in a terraced house in London. When the bombs started falling I was around the age of five and it was to dangerous to stay in the capital. They were evacuating all of the kids out of London, splitting families up. Each of my sisters took one of my brothers, but my baby brother stayed with my parents. I went with my second eldest sister Lena to Bishop Stortford. My earliest memory was as a tot, standing on the train platform with Lena. We were standing in a long line and people were walking around looking for evacuees to take in. I was holding Lena's hand and an official looking bloke looked right at us and said to the billeting officer, "I'll have her, but I don't want him." To which my sister replied, "I'm going nowhere without my little brother." Lena was twelve and at that age could be useful for household chores. But being small I could be considered a burden.

The next thing i can remember was being somewhere in Bishop Stortford at a market where my sister had taken me in a pushchair to see the sheep they kept in pens to auction off. I used to stroke them through the bars as being a Londoner I had never seen sheep before.

Another thing I remember was being so hungry that we ate salt and pepper sandwiches, because there was nothing else to put on the bread.

My late father was to young for the first world war but to old World War Two. He was in the clothing manufacturing business. During the war he helped put fires out and blew a whistle at people who had left their lights on. This was because everyone had to black out light when it became dark, so that the bombers could not see where the buildings were. There was no streetlights or headlights on cars. They had a little square light and you drove no more than ten miles an hour, as you could'nt see where you were going. A lot of the clothing stores were getting bombed which meant my father could'nt get any work. So he decided to go to Leeds to find some.

He left my younger brother with my mother in London and set off by train to Leeds. As the train approached Nottingham there was an air raid which cut off the route to Leeds, everyone had to get off the train. My father with his friend, found somewhere to lodge for the night. There he got speaking to someone who informed him of a place called Hucknall just north of Nottingham, where there was a factory producing clothing and uniforms for the troops. So my father went there and got a job.

As he had had enough of his family being split up he decided to rent a big victorian house on a road called Gregory Boulevard in Nottingham. This road is well known because it is a mile long and perfectly straight, at the end of the road were acres of fields where a Goose fair was held. The house had an alley way, a hallway with a large room of it, a kitchen, a scullery, and a back yard. Off one of the rooms was a basement the height of a normal room, which stretched the length of the house. All the coal got dumped down there at one side, but the other side could be turned into a workshop. On the first floor there were two bedrooms, a box room, a loo, and a bathroom. On the top floor were two more bedrooms, which meant the house could sleep nine. My father brought us all from where we were living to this house. I must have been about six at this time and I can remember when I went in, falling down a little step, I have never forgotten that. I can't say that I had missed my brothers or sisters, because I was too young to understand what was happening.

My father was very victorian being born in the 1890's. If he was late for dinner we had to sit round the table and wait for him, we could not start eating until he started.

He used a ration book to collect sweets for us and would count them out individually round the table, which usually worked out about half a dozen each. We used to scrump apples out of trees, because as kids from London had never seen an apples before and if you were hungry you didn't give a monkeys who they belonged too.

I went to school in Nottingham. Which is where later I met my wife and got married.

About forty years ago we left Nottingham and went Manchester, leaving there eventually to come to St Annes. That's about it really, oh I did two years in the army when I was living in Manchester, which was a complete waste of time because all I did was blow a saxaphone

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Childhood and Evacuation Category
Essex Category
London Category
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