- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Doreen Kerry (nee Garrard,) Joyce Prett (nee Saunders,) Dr. and Mrs. Clague and their son John (Herne Bay,) Mr. and Mrs. Francis and Glenys Jones (Resolven.)
- Location of story:
- Gillingham and Herne Bay (Kent,) Resolven and Swansea (Wales.)
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 18 November 2005
Doreen Kerry (nee Garrard) - left hand side; and Glynis Morgan (nee Jones;)- right hand side; Resolven, Wales.
A happy evacuation
By: Medway Library staff from an interview with Doreen Kerry held at Gillingham Library on 7th July 2005
Outbreak of war and evacuation to Herne Bay
I was ten years old when the war began. I was first evacuated from Barnsole Road School, Gillingham on 1st September 1939 and went to Herne Bay. We had no idea where we were going. Just got up to the station, got on the train and had no idea where we were heading for.
When we got to Herne Bay Station, we went down to the pier and into the pavilion. We sat down and were given these bags of food, chocolate, biscuits, corned beef and condensed milk. Then we sat there waiting, my friend and I, and they said, “You two girls” and they introduced us to a gentleman who came in, a young gentleman, about 25 or 26, and they said, “This gentleman is going to take you home, Mr. Clague”, and that was the son of the family. We were taken home in a car and we thought this was great, it was the first time I’d been in a car!
So we went along there and it was to a retired doctor and his wife, so we were very lucky really, and we were made to be young ladies. We weren’t allowed to play out in the street, we had to behave ourselves, and if we misbehaved we got punished. We had to go to bed at a certain time every night and if there was anything we wanted to listen to on the radio, we went to bed half an hour early so that we could hear Arthur Askey from upstairs. The lady used to always take us up to bed and we had to say our prayers every night. She was a really sweet and lovely person. It was a detached house, a chalet bungalow, I suppose. They had a housekeeper so, of course, we were like young ladies. But the lady fell ill and we had to come home after 4 months.
Evacuation to Wales
Then eventually Dunkirk happened, and they decided to re-evacuate us. When I had come home from Herne Bay my mother had moved so I didn’t get evacuated with Barnsole Road this time and my friend didn’t go, but I did, I went to Wales with Napier Road Boy’s School because I had a brother there. My mother wanted us to be together but we got put in separate billets. I got put with a lady and gentleman that had a fish and chip shop. He worked in the colliery. They wanted a girl because they had a maid, so I got put into a good place again. I was treated like an only child. I got utterly spoilt.
We belonged to the Band of Hope at the Chapel, and we had an Operetta called The Holiday Concert. To keep things on an even keel they had two people playing the parts, (i.e. my Welsh friend Glenys and I were flower girls). I have a photograph of it. She was telling me quite a few of the children have died now.
I came away from there after fourteen months because they moved into a house where an old gentleman had just died and I didn’t like the thought of living in a house where someone had died. So I made the excuse that my friend was at home and wanted to stay home, so that was how I came to leave them, but I did keep in touch with them. I eventually lost touch with the lady. Her niece died and eventually Auntie Rachel went on to suffer with Alzheimer’s and passed away. I didn’t know this until later but I’m still friends with the girl I was friendly with down there. It was a good experience.
In Wales the only bombing I saw was when Swansea was bombed. Where we were staying was only about twelve miles or so away. We could stand up at the back window and we could see the flares. The Skewen oil works were bombed, you could see the flames coming from that. Other than that I didn’t see much of the bombing. We lived between two mountains and it wasn’t until I actually went down to Swansea with the lady and saw the state it was in after the bombing that realised what war was about, then I used to worry about it.
I started to worry about my mum and dad. Dad was in the Navy but mum was still in Gillingham, and I had an older brother and sister, besides the one that was evacuated with me. They were both working, so mum was down there looking after them.
Life at home during the war
When I came home, I had a sister who was bigger than me and a bit of a tartar. It was coming back to her, I didn’t like it one bit!
We used to go out in the blackout, we didn’t care, and we used to go to night school. It was only once I got caught, we went to night school one night and the siren went so we had to go and sit in this place with our teacher until the all clear went. It didn’t go until eleven o’clock, but she made sure we each got home to our houses.
After I’d left school, I used to go waiting on tables, to get the money to be able to go to dances. This was when the V1s that used to come over. They used to come across, you’d hear them, and stand and listen but when the engine stopped you used to think, well, is it mine or not! There was one actually dropped on the Darland Banks. We stood in the park, there were crowds of us that used to get up there at night. This one came dead over the top of us, we thought, it is ours this time but it floated across to the Darland Banks.
There was a fort on the Darland Banks that used to get used as an air raid shelter. When my eldest brother got married, the place that they were going to go to get bombed the week before, so they couldn’t go. He and his wife spent their first night sitting in the Darland fort in a deckchair! I was away at the time so I didn’t see the wedding. His mother-in-law started out across to the fort and lost her footing and she landed up with two black eyes for the wedding. She’d fallen twenty feet and didn’t hurt herself apart from that!
There are some strange stories you can tell. When my dad was in the navy, he used to bring the Wrens home, the ones that were away from home. He used to say to my mum “I’ll bring home so and so”, and I was always sleeping with a different Wren every weekend because we only had double beds. It was a bit of fun.
Kids used to collect shrapnel in the war. When my mother died, we had a big drawer full of bits and pieces. And I said to my father, “We can’t sort this out”. So I tipped it all into the dustbin, literally. It was only after that that I realised there were bits of shrapnel and everything in there! Bits of the sewing machine! You should have seen it. I’ll never have a drawer like that.
The end of the war
When I first left school I was working down at the Dockyard, then I had to leave it. It was so boring, it was office work and I got nervous trouble and they said I’d best come out of there. So I came out of there and I went to Taplow in Buckinghamshire. That only lasted three months. This was when the V1s were coming over. Then I came back and I was working for Scotts, the cleaners, on the top road. Then the lady who had been in munitions during the war, had to come back to the job after the war, so that was that!
V.E. Day was just another day to me because I was working. V.J. Day I was actually on holiday in Wales, at the house where I’d been staying. That was in 1945 up in Resolven, in the Neath Valley. I was out dancing and singing all night with the girls and their boyfriends. I was without a boyfriend as I was only 16. That’s the main thing I remember.
Dad was down at Westcliffe at the end of the war. He was the Chief Cook down there in charge of all the galleys. He came back after that and was head cook at the Naval Hospital, at Gillingham. I lived in there in the end and was married in the Church there.
Families were closer during the war. I’ve got children of my own, a son and a daughter and we are close but not as close as families used to be. We used to go to somebody’s house every Sunday and play cards and table games. There was ten years between me and my eldest brother, and another five between him and my sister, because father used to go away. And then my other brother, there’s only fourteen months between him and me, we’re the only two that are left now.
Thoughts on evacuation
Evacuation for me had been an experience. I really enjoyed being in Wales because I was literally spoilt. People say a lot of things about Welsh people but they want a lot of beating. But then, my mother was brought up in Wales for three years, because her father remarried to a Welsh lady. They were living in the Mumbles.
In the long run we benefited to a certain degree from being evacuated. It made us more independent.
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