- Contributed by
- People in story:
- LILIAN HYLAND (nee SMITH)
- Location of story:
- Great Yarmouth
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 02 June 2004
MY STORY AS AN EVACUEE
June 1, 2004
I am now seventy years old.
I want to go back to June 2nd, 1940. I was then seven years old.
It was so long ago, but how can I forget — I will remember those years until I die.
I am from a family of eleven children, all born in Great Yarmouth, England. My sister, two older brothers and myself were evacuated. I remember that day. My mother standing at the garden gate with my baby sister in her arms. And my older sister ready to take us to the school where the buses waited. Hearing my mother say “you’re going on a holiday, have a nice time”, I think trying to hide the heartbreak she felt. We were very excited at the time and off we all marched up the street with gas masks on our shoulders and brown paper bags with a few clothes in them.
When we got to the school, all I saw was a sea of faces, hundreds of boys and girls queuing up waiting to climb on the waiting buses, which would take us to the train. I saw mums and dads weeping, but trying to look brave as they parted with their young children. I thought us children were very well behaved, no one pushed or shoved to get on the buses. I wonder how many of us were told we were going on a holiday. We were given brown bags with a sandwich, a drink and some biscuits. We were told not to eat until we got on the train. It seemed a long time getting on the bus. My legs were getting tired. I was afraid of losing my sister and hung on to her. She was older than me by two years.
Finally we got on the bus. My older sister waited until we were on. She was waving to us. We were finally leaving, not realizing that we would not see our family until four years later. Before we new it the bus was slowing down and finally came to a stop. We were at the train station. We got off the bus in an orderly fashion. Everyone was very quiet. I heard a few kids crying, “I want my mum”. But other than that all went well. I was scared, excited too, because, “I was going on a holiday”!
It seemed such a long time on that train and I was getting hungry, so I started to eat my sandwich. I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up and realized that the train had stopped. We were at our destination. I think it was Retford. Again, I got on a bus with my sister, but I didn’t see my brothers. I found out that they were going to another village. We went to Clayworth, Nottingham. The bus stopped and we got out and a lady told me I couldn’t stay with my sister, because there wasn’t room in the house I was going to. I remember the lady knocking on the door and an older lady answered, her name was Mrs. Davies. Next thing I recall Mrs. Davies undressed me and made me get into the tub in front of the fire. I was shivering - whether it was from fear or from the cold, I don’t know.
I do recall her giving me food, and I do recall her being a good baker. Her teacakes were so good.
My sister and I attended the village school and we realized that there were other evacuees there, and soon we all got friendly. The village kids didn’t like us and would call us names like dirty evacuees. But we evacuees stuck together — there were lots of fights. I recall hating the name evacuee. I didn’t want to be one.
The headmaster’s name was Mr. Wickstead. He was very strict and many times I was cracked on my knuckles with the side of a ruler. The cane was also used. I recall having welts on the back of my legs. My life over those four years was very unhappy. I guess I recall all the bad times — not the good.
One night the siren went off and Mrs. Davies woke me. I wet my bed, which I did many times. My pajamas were wet and I was scared to tell her. She told me to put on my coat and we went outside across the street to a wall, and behind the wall was a field. In the distance we heard explosions. We all crouched behind the wall; we had no air raid shelters. Finally the all clear sounded. I was shaking with fear. The bombing didn’t happen too often.
I recall having to leave school classes to join the other evacuees in the fields picking strawberries and potatoes. As a result, I learned very little in school.
A lot of evacuees got together and put on a show. We made some money for the Red Cross. I would fantasize a lot while lying awake in bed. I think I did this to get away from my unhappiness. I thought I was never going to see my parents again.
At the end of four years, 1944, my parents sent for us. They had been evacuated to Haverhill, Cambridgeshire. One of my older sisters came to get us. I thought I was dreaming. I couldn’t wait to see my family again. I was now eleven. I don’t even remember saying goodbye to Mrs. Davies — I’m sure that she was glad to get rid of me.
I was so excited to be going back home to see my family. I thought that day would never happen. We didn’t have an air raid shelter in Haverhill, and the siren was always going off. I didn’t care — I was with my Mum. The bombing was very bad that year because we had a lot of U.S. and R.A.F bases around us. The doodlebugs would fly over as we watched and listened to their drone. Then the light at their tail would go out and soon there was an explosion. I was scared to death.
Then came the V2 rockets. I remember them too.
Fortunately our family survived, and in 1946 we went back home to Gt. Yarmouth. We were all happy to return.
I now live in America with my husband, four children, eight grandkids and one great grandchild on its way.
One day I would like to go back to Clayworth, Nottingham.
What I tell here is just a small part of my being an evacuee. There is so much more that happened; so much more that I could tell about my life as a seven-year-old evacuee.
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