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WW2 - People's War

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Evacuated - Three times!

by Angela Ng

Contributed by 
Angela Ng
People in story: 
George Edward Francis
Location of story: 
Woolsingham, County Durham - Cockermouth, Cumberland - Millam, Lancashire
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
13 July 2005

I'm a pupil from Heaton Manor Comprehensive school, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, entering Eddie Francis' story onto the website, and they fully understand the website terms and conditions of use.

As I’m sure you know, during the war most kids were evacuated to the countryside. During the war I was evacuated three times! The first time I was evacuated to Woolsingham in County Durham. This wasn’t very far when you think that I only came from Newcastle, but everything seems further when you are younger. I was eleven years old at the time and I only stayed for a week — The elderly lady I was staying with fell ill so I was sent home. When I got back, all the schools were shut so we had nothing to do. After a few weeks I was re-evacuated to Cockermouth in the Lake District. I stayed there for fourteen months. In all that time I never saw my mother and father, or the three siblings I left at home (my youngest brother at the time, John, came with me). When we travelled to the place all the children were taken to a big school hall and lined up. People who were taking evacuees would come along and choose which children they wanted. My brother and me were chosen almost last because most people only wanted one child, but in the end we stayed together. As I said before, I was there for fourteen months and when I turned fourteen I sat and passed the exam to get into Heaton Technical College. I couldn’t go to that college because of the bombs so I was evacuated again so I could go to another tech college in Cumberland. I was near Barrow and Furnace shipyards, which was targeted by bombers. There were no air raid shelters so the safest place to be was under the stairs!

After an air raid all the kids would go out searching for pieces of shrapnel. They would take shoeboxes and have competitions as to who could find the biggest piece.

There was hardly any fruit but ships would often come into dock with big crates of oranges. Occasionally the dockers would accidentally-on-purpose ‘drop’ a crate. The crate would split so all the kids could have an orange. It was often the only orange they’d see from one Christmas to the next. Other times the crates of oranges would be stored in the big warehouses by the Tyne. These warehouses had huge doors and if they had been left open slightly the kids would get a long wooden pole with a nail on the end and reach in to grab oranges out of the open crates!

Under Byker bridge is a stream called the Ouseburn. Near here was a landfill and under this was a tunnel we called the culvert. The culvert was our equivalent to London’s tube stations — My Nana took a blanket and slept down there every night. Another of these places was the Victoria tunnel. This started by City Road and went all the way to the Hancock Museum. It ran along beside the river so I think it was originally for smugglers. A lot of people, like my Nana, would just go and sleep there every night.

In our living room we had a solid steel table with mesh round the outside. It must have weighed about a ton and a half! The floors were reinforced and everything. My brothers and me slept there most nights.

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