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Return of the Evacuee

by irispodbur

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iris podbur
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12 December 2003

Something I had wanted to do for a very long time was to find the village in Gloucestershire I had been evacuated to from a baby (born 1939) up to the end of the war when I returned home to the East End and my family. This cam about when I mentioned this quest to one of the people when I worked for genealogists, knowing this is the type of research they undertake in their day-to-day business. I had very little information to go on, but I provided the name of the family and the only other fact, there was a daughter Geraldine who got married to a serviceman during my time as an evacuee, so armed with the family name of Carew, which apparently is a good name to research as it is not too common, they came up with the marriage certificate of Geraldine by tracing the name in the marriage records between 1942 and 1945 and of course on the certificate was the address of the bride and that of my search.

One very hot summers day this year, along with a friend, we set of for Warrington Upton having booked a b & b for an overnight stay on the road leading to the village. We arrived two hours later after a really good traffic-free journey and stopped at one of two pubs in the village for lunch and to plan our approach. Bearing in mind that I knew the family would no longer be alive and that there was in all probability no longer the cottage I had lived in, I thought it would be enough just to gedt the location right and perhaps even find one or two places I remembered still around. Armed with the address and noting the village had changed with no grocers shop or fish and chip shop I could recall from the time I was there, and in fact finding no familiarity at all in the surroundings, we drove along the designated road, noting the church I had to attend as a child and the farm I had played on with other children who were evacuated there, but there was so much new housing along one side of the road, I really couldn't get my bearings and suggested we parked the car at the end of the road and walked it to see if I could get a better idea.

It wasn't a long road, but halfway up it I noticed a tiny post office and said to my friend I would see if I could buy a map of the area, but they didn't have one, and I don't know what made me tell the lady behind the counter but I told her I had been evacuated in the village and was hoping to find the exact location. She asked me the name of the family and when I told her she said "you want Carew Cottage; Geraldine lives there". I couldn't believe my ears as I was sure if Geraldine had been alive, she would have been 82 and I had rather give up0 hope that she would still be around and actually living in the cottage of her parents, as well as the fact that the records reseached for her marriage came up with the fact that her husband had been killed nine months after their marriage and if she had remarried, what was her married name? The lady from the post office said she would show me the cottage and as we came along the road she pointed to two ladies standing talking at the end of the road and said "there's Geraldine", and on approaching her said "I have a visitor here who says she was evacuated with your family" and when I ventured the name Iris she immediately said "Kasden" which was my single name and how her mother had been so upset when I went back home she actually came up to London to look for me.

Well, to say that I was delighted at this outcome would be an understatement and when we went back to the cottage I couldn't believe it, it had hardley changed in 60 years and was immediately recognisable, apart from a cover which had been placed over the well in the garden and a glass lean-to where a porch had been. Even when I mentioned remembering the piano in the parlour, I was taken in there and there it still was. Geraldine had remarried and had one daughter who arrived to visit her mother and father whilst we were there, and then her grand-daughter called in with her son, so there were four generations of the family at one time and that was just another piece of fantastic luck on my part.

Joan, the daughter of Geraldine, invited us to visit her home that evening in Chipping Sodbury and as we were intending to eat out that night, we stopped off at her place first to see family photographs and old postcards of the area which Joan collects as a hobby, and then went off to a recommended restaurant in the lovely market town, which was a pleasant visit in itself.

Next morning we returned to arew Cottage after a walk in the lovely surrounding unchanged countryside and spent some more time with Geraldine and her husband and took photographs of them both and of course the cottage as a memento of my visit.

We then went on to a pub en-route for home where Joan worked intending to have lunch with her, but she had gone to work knowing that we were coming in to see her, but had had to be taken home feeling unwell.

So on another hot Friday afternoon, we made our way back to Surry but when we got to the M25, we found it had been closed due to an accident so we were diverted off and along with everybody else, crawled our way through towns blocked with traffic eventually arriving home much later than intended, but nothing could take away the incredible luck we felt we had had and every time I tell someone this story, they can't believe it and neither can I.

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