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Strangers in Paradise

by John Birch

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Archive List > United Kingdom > Devon

Contributed by 
John Birch
People in story: 
John Birch
Location of story: 
South Hams, Devon.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 July 2005

I can not remember just when I was evacuated down to Devon, it was sometime after the big blitz on London. I came down with my baby sister, my Mum and her younger sister. In London we lived in a ground floor flat, it had both Gas and electric. We had two livingrooms/bedrooms, a kitchen with a cast iron soild fuel stove, a scullery with the gas stove and a built in wood fired copper and an outside privy. We had an Anderson Shelter in the back garden but it was always full of water so my sister and I slept in the bottom of a heavy oak dresser. In Devon we found ourselves on a small farm and thing a lot less modern. There was no gas or electric, light was by candle or oil lamp. There was no cooker or stove, all cooking was on the open fire either on a trivet or in a pot on a hook over the fire. Our beds were in the same room but curtained off. It was alway dark, we moved about by fire light, oil and candles cost money.
The new life was a wonder, I learnt milk came from cows which were hand milked, a skill I later learnt, and eggs came from chickens. I learnt to ride the horses, there was no tractor, and take them to the Smithy in Morley to be shod. I, with the other members of the family, was expected to help out on the farm in many ways from leading the horses, turning the hay, stooking the corn, building the ricks and threathing when the steam engine came with its big threshing box. My sister and I had to go to school in Kingsbridge which meant a long walk to the station to catch the train and a trudge up the hill from the station to the school. The local kids were not too kind to us evacuees and we were called names and they played tricks on us to begin with.
Mum found we had a distant relative of hers living in a railway cottage in Ivybridge, a vist there was a big treat, we were back with our own and Mum and her sister seemed a lot happier after these visits. We also visited Totnes and it was here I later saw my first black soldiers. The Americans had arrived. There seemed to be more and more about each day we went to school, their tanks, lories and jeeps, then one day there were none, it was strange, they had just disappeared. I leant from Mum that there had been an invasion and we were beating hell out of the Germans, which I thought was a good thing as they had bombed us and taken my Dad away. The farm may have been an adventure for me but for Mum it was a great hardship and she believed that as the invasion was going so well the war was almost over and we could go back to London and civilization. It was not such a good move as we arrived in time for the V1s, or doodlebugs, and later the V2s, dreadful things, a big bang, rushing of wind and a large hole. On the farm there was the odd egg that we have found in the hedge, fresh veg and rabbits, in London it was strict rations. Mum was glad to be back in the town but I missed the countryside and vowed to return.

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