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15 October 2014
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The Wartime Evacuation of School Children From the South Coast and Major Cities

by gloinf

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Contributed by 
People in story: 
Victor Knapp
Location of story: 
Eastbourne, Bedford
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
27 October 2004

The government considered that school children should be sent away from areas that were likely to be bombed during World War Two.

London children were originally dispersed to places like the South Coast, some coming to Eastbourne where I lived, and we had to share our school with them.

We thought this was good because there was not enough room for us all in the school at the same time so we had extra games and P.E. outside.

However, when it was found that the South Coast was within easy reach of the fighter-bombers from the continental aerodromes we were all sent away to places inland where it was considered safer.

My school was sent to the area around Bedford and each class went to a separate village. The village school was very small and not big enough to share with us so we had our lessons in the church hall but each afternoon we had games in the school field. It was lovely weather that summer and we had a great time.

Anyone living in these villages who had a spare bedroom and was able to take in one or more children was compelled to do so.

To us children it seemed a great adventure, but to our parents it was a great worry as they did not at first know where we were being sent and they were also worried about who we would be staying with. Some people were very good to us evacuees but others were not very kind at all and made the children very unhappy. A number of their parents brought them back home to Eastbourne in spite of the bombing.

Later when the Germans had overrun France and there was the threat that the South Coast would be invaded all non-essential civilians were sent away, leaving the coast towns nearly empty. My mother came to stay with us at the village near Bedford, but my father, who owned a shop, stayed in Eastbourne to help distribute food in the day and was on duty as an A.R.P. (air raid precautions) warden at night in case of bombing.

I understand that some children stayed in their evacuation areas for years. But I returned to Eastbourne after a few months, & as I was then 14 years old, which was school leaving age at that time, I started work in a factory helping to make parts for our own forces' guns and bombs until eventually I went into the forces myself.

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