- Contributed by
- Wymondham Learning Centre
- People in story:
- Josephine Linda Todd (nee Thorp)
- Location of story:
- Belvedere, Abbey Wood; Maidstone, Kent; King’s Nympton, Devon;Sennybridge and Defynnog, South Wales
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 March 2005
This story was submitted to the BBC People’s War site by Wymondham Learning Centre on behalf of Josephine Todd and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
At home in Belvedere, Abbey Wood
I was twelve years old at the start of the War and lived at home in Belvedere with my mother. I can remember listening to the radio and hearing the announcement that War had been declared. I can also remember Lord Haw Haw saying “We haven’t forgotten you, Belvedere.”
We had a dugout in the garden; I think it may have been an old wine cellar as there were ruins of an old house nearby. One day there was an air raid warning and my mother had just cooked a steamed pudding. She said “I’m not leaving that behind”, and we took it with us!
Evacuation to Maidstone, Kent
During 1939 I was evacuated to Maidstone. I didn’t feel upset or worried — it was like an adventure. We travelled by train to Erith. I stayed with a young couple. They had no children of their own and they were very kind to us. We had a school visit to an oast house, being in hop growing country.
There were soon more air raids in Maidstone than Abbey Wood so mother came to take me back home.
1940 — King’s Nympton, Devon
I was evacuated again, this time to King’s Newton. It was a long journey and we arrived feeling tired and hungry. I can remember seeing a stern looking lady, her hair in a bun, and hoped that she wouldn’t choose me. Unfortunately, she did. I shared a room with her daughter who didn’t speak to me. I think she had been told not to. I wasn’t looked after very well and felt very lonely but made friends with another evacuee girl who lived next door. She wasn’t happy as the man of the house didn’t allow herself any privacy. One day I collapsed in the school playground. There was a lot of fuss and I was asked if I was hungry. I hadn’t been given any breakfast and, in fact, wasn’t fed well at all.
My friend and I were soon moved to a farm. The food was lovely but we weren’t made very welcome. I was told that I must go to chapel every Sunday but I refused as I was Roman Catholic. I wrote to my mother saying I was unhappy and she sent the train fare for me to return home.
Sennybridge and Defynnog, South Wales
The third time I was evacuated was to Wales with my mother. At first we stayed at Sennybridge then moved to Defynnog. I was happier because mother was with me but I remember the headmaster at school was very unpleasant. One day he asked who knew the colour of the stamens of a poppy. I put up my hand and said “black.” He wasn’t pleased and said to the rest of the class, “Do you mean you don’t know the answer but this girl from London does?”
We were asked to make up a war slogan. Mine was “Make your money fight.” I won a ten shilling Savings Certificate. Before we left Wales my mother worked in the NAAFI for a time and I stayed with an elderly couple and their daughter for about three months. I had to walk three miles to school each day — a long way.
I was fifteen when we returned home. Looking back, I think that most people didn’t really want evacuees living in their homes and, while Londoners were always ready to help each other, I’m not sure that this was the case elsewhere.
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