- Contributed by
- Wolverhampton Libraries & Archives
- People in story:
- Arthur Leach, Keith Wilson
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- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 May 2005
I remember listening to the wireless to hear Neville Chamberlain saying we were at War with Germany. This was exactly one week before my 10th birthday. My father was an Air Raid Warden, he had joined the ARP when it was started about one year earlier after the Munich crisis. We lived in Carlisle well away from London and the south and so were considered safe. In the first week or two there came to Carlisle boys and girls as evacuees from Newcastle and Tyneside which was not considered safe as there were many ship building yards expected to be bombed. My mother took in a brother and sister from the Durham side of the Tyne as she thought if things had been different and my sister and I had had to be evacuated she hoped we would have been well looked after. After a week or two arrangements were being made for the parents of evacuees to contribute to the upkeep of their children. Many including ours were taken back. Sometime later another batch of evacuees came and we took in a boy who was about a month older than me, his name was Keith Wilson. We met his parents when they came to take him for a cycling holiday and I spent several weekends at his home in a suburb of Newcastle. His whole school had been sent to Carlisle and it shared with our Grammar School. One school used the classrooms in the mornings while the other school used the games field, gymnasium, did woodwork or grew vegetables in the school gardens. The schools would change places for the afternoon. I attended another secondary school and was in the first class to go into a newly built school in September 1940, this building had been completed a year before but not used as it was feared it might have to be used as a hospital. In 1941 I joined the Scouts and after a couple of years I was old enough to take part in first aid courses as a “casualty”. Every few weeks it would be our turn to spend a Sunday morning in various buildings. The talking part would involve being labeled with an injury, broken arm etc. St John Ambulance or Red Cross Instructors taught volunteers how to treat us. I remember particularly being on the top floor (think it was the 7th) of a local mill and I was brought down on a stretcher.
I think it was in 1943 that most of the evacuees went home. Ours used to write to me quite frequently and when we were old enough to go for our National Service we joined the RAF together and though we were never in the same hut we were at three different RAF stations for training for about eight months before being posted apart. This shows that some evacuees did keep in touch. When we returned to Civvy street my firm sent me for training to Newcastle and for six weeks I stayed with my friend. Later when I was about to be married I wrote asking him to be my Best Man but he had just signed on the RAF as a regular. The last time I saw him was at my mothers funeral, he had called her Aunt Amy for more than fifty years. We still exchange Christmas Cards. My sister and Keith still write to each other occasionally.
Another wartime job I did with the Scouts was, each Saturday morning I helped the WVS at a stall in the market. We collected from visitors to the market plants and herbs such as nettles, sphagnum moss, rose hips in season, we stuffed these in small sacks and weighed and labeled them to be sent away to be put to some medical use.
[This story was submitted to the People's War site by Wolverhampton Libraries on behalf of Arthur Leach and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions]
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