- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Sheila Webb (now Sheila Reading)
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 10 December 2005
The author of this story has agreed that it can be entered on the BBC website.
On the Sunday before war was declared my parents and I were in our garden (50 Norbury Hill, S.W.16) and heard some funny popping noises. My father realized that they were from ‘white balls’ in the sky and we went up to my back bedroom and watched three aeroplanes circle Croydon Airport before flying off. The ‘white balls’ were from anti-aircraft machines shooting at the aircraft and the 2nd World War had begun! I was 9 years old and little did I know that all arrangements had been made for me to be evacuated already.
On the Monday morning I was therefore waved off down the road with my gasmask over my shoulder and ‘iron rations’ in a bag. A neighbour had arranged to take me with her daughter as I was starting at a new school and she was going with the school and her 15 year old daughter to help the staff. We walked down to the railway station and waited for what seemed an age. I well remember that we were in a double like along the platform where I had always been told not to go — I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! When the train eventually came in everybody surged in and I was in the centre without a window and with very little space. We seemed to stop, start all the way — I remember eating my sandwiches and not much else. Even the staff didn’t know where we going but we finally stopped at Hove and got on a bus to the local county school. We were a girl’s Grammar School and would be going to this school, a Girl’s County School, in the afternoons while they went in the morning.
We were taken into the school hall where chairs had been put in a circle and we had to stand inside that circle. Then parents and children were walking round and picking out girls that they thought would suit them. One or two people wanted me but Mrs Charlton had told me to say that I was already suited as I was going with her. This was in September and the day quickly got dark and finally one other girl and I were the only ones standing there! Then Mrs Charlton told me that she couldn’t have me after all. After a lot of talking, one of the organisers said that she would take us and I never saw my mother’s neighbour again. As it happened, Margaret and I had fallen on our feet and stayed with the mother of the organiser and were very well looked after but you can imagine that I went through a few traumas first and I can still see the darkening hall of the school and the feeling that I was not wanted by anyone!!
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