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15 October 2014
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Life As An Evacuee

by ateamwar

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Elizabeth Furlong. Featuring Mr & Mrs Bertcliff of Whixhall, Mrs Hughes, Miss Leonard of Penmaenmawr.
Location of story: 
Whixhall, Shropshire, Penmaenmawr, North Wales
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 May 2005

The war to me meant evacuation. A new word to all children in 1939, but it soon became reality. After training in donning gas masks (horrible smelly things) we were all informed that we would be taken to stay in the country to be kept safe as the Germans were going to bomb all of England.

So, on the morning of 1st September 1939, I was in a long line of pupils from St. Garards RC School, being followed by mothers, almost all of them carrying babies, walking to Sandhills Station in Liverpool. My last instructions from my tearful mother were that I must not allow anyone to separate me from my two younger sisters. In spite of the excitement most of the children were in tears by the time the train moved off, leaving all the mothers in tears at the station.

We travelled a long way through contryside we had never seen before until finally we stopped at a railway station in Shropshire.

All station names had been removed for security in case of German invasion. We were then taken in a bus to a village hall which we later learned was Whixall and given a drink of milk and a sandwich and told to wait until someone would speak to us and decide where we would go to stay with some kind people. The people in charge of speaking to the children, asked first of all for children who were alone, and then for pairs of related children. I had strict instructions from my mother that I was not to allow anyone fo take my sisters away from me, so I stubbornly refused to be parted from them.

Finally, one man who had come to collect "two nice clean little girls" on behalf of friends of his, having driven back to them to explain about the trio of clean little girls, who were determined to remain together, and they had agreed to take all three of us. So we were taken to Platt Lane, Whixall to stay with Mr and Mrs Bert Cliff, and we were instructed to call them Uncle Bert and Auntie Lila. They took us into the garden, which was wonderland to three children from the back streets of Liverpool, especially the pump, which they explained was where they got their water from!

We were shown upstairs to a room which contained a big double bed with a huge feather quilt on, and told to put our nighties on and get ready for bed. My two young sisters, aged six and eight, were worn out with the excitement of the day and were soon asleep but I was awake for a long time wondering what my parents were doing at home without us.

Next morning, Auntie Lila came to tell us it was time to get up and were going to pick some mushrooms for breakfast This was all new to us, straight from the Liverpool slum area, but all part of the new adventure, and we went with her across the lane outside the house into a field where she showed us how to pick very carefully, the round brown objects which were growing in the field. When she had filled the bowl she had brought, we went back into the house and she fried bacon and some of the mushroomms and gave us plates of this to eat. I had never tasted anything so wonderful and to this day muchrooms are one of my favourite things to eat!

The next day we were taken in a car to meet our schoolteacher, Miss Lee who had travelled with us from Liverpool and was to remain with us for as long as we were away from home. She explained the we would be going for lessons in the village school, and we began to feel more at home with this familiar figure promising to teach us our usual lessons. Our days took on a familiar pattern, going to school and enjoying our freedom to play in the fields adjoining the cottage. Autumn came and went, and occasionally a coach from Home James Ltd in Liverpool would bring parents to visit us and reassure themselves that we were being looked after and were happy. We felt sad when it was time for them go go back on their coach, but we soon settled into the joys of country life. When Winter came, it brought new delights because snowdrifts formed in the lanes and fields and we had fun playing snowballs in this wonderful white snow, a lovely sight to us because we were used to seeing any snow which fell near our street quickly made into slush by th4e feet and horses passing along.

At Christmas, we were promised that Father Christmas would not forget that we were living in this lovely cottage, and sure enough, we had presents, books for me and dolls for my young sisters. We settled into this new life quite happily, and at one stage our Mam was evacuated to the village with our two other young sisters and our baby brother. But country life was too quiet for my Mam and she worried about my Dad being left at home with no one to cook for him, and she decided that as we were happy and well looked after, she would go back to Liverpool to be with her mother and father and my father too.

Life went on for us and Spring came and went, with the wonder of the flowers in the fields and the fun of going to school over the fields and having some of our lessons outside in the field adjoining the village school. Summer came and went and with occasional visits from my Dad who came by train and walked from Whitchurch, the nearest town to Whixall to see us. But this was the time of the "phoney war" as it came to be known. War had not started as expected, and my parents and grandparents who lived next door to us, were missing us terribly and so it was decided that we would return to Liverpool, and one day we went to meet the Home James coach because we had received a letter telling us that our "adopted brother" who lived near us in Liverpool and had eaten meals with us since his mother died, he and his brother were taken very much as part of our family, and we had not seen him for two years as he had joined the Army, so we were very excited and quite unaware that he was coming on behalf of our parent to take us home. While we were overjoyed to see him, we cried at the thought of going back to Liverpool, and Auntie Lila cried too, which I can now understand, but we obediently boarded the coach with Gerard and cried all the way to Liverpool. Only now can I understand how distressing it must have been for our mother to find children weeping at the thought of coming home to her, but we were very quickly absorbed into the warmth of home and things were soon back to normal.

Not for long though because we were in Liverpool for the big Christmas Blitz and our School was among the buildings devasted in that, and the Education Department did not consider the collection of shrapnel in the street, exciting as we considered it to be, an acceptable alternative to formal education.

They tried to provide some schooling in the parlour of homes which had spare rooms, but this amounted to only one hour every two days, which was not going to make us worthy citizens, so it was decided we must go away from the City again. Like the preparations which had been done for the September evacuation, the only decision which had been taken was the name of the place they considered safe enough to take us to ...Penmaenmawr, North Wales.

There had been no provision made for billets for us, so the WVS LADIES drove us around the village knocking on doors and asking the residents to take on refugees from Liverpool. No great eagerness was found so we spent the first night of our stay on the floor of the Convent, the boys being sent to sleep in the Monastery across the road. My youngest sister was only barely five years olf and was very upset at having to sleep on the floor, and cried that it was hurting her bones, so she lay across me and spent the night that way. Life in Penmaenmawr was almost like life in Whixall, except that we had the beach instead of fields, and we settled into the new life there.

This time we had been placed with a Welsh lady who did not want children around and we were not happy there, so when we had the offer to move to live with a retired Head Mistreee who had asked for more evacuees because if she took in six children, she was given an extra ten shillings and sexpence for laundry. The big attraction as far as I was concerned was that she had bookshelves filled with lots of books, and I was an avid bookworm. So we moved to live with Miss Leonar and life turned yet another page.

When Liverpool suffered extremely heavy bombing in May of that year, all the Liverpool children were told that we could go into one of the big empty houses on the seafront, and put a label with out mothers name on it, and place it onto a door of a room in the house. We did this, but my mother decided that if Hitler was going to kill us with bombs, we should die together as a family, so once more we were back at home in dear old Liverpool and added to our collection of shrapnel from the streets. There was a brick Air Raid Shelter in the street outside our house, and every evening we were dressed in our warm clothes and settled down to sleep in there. We had a wireless somehow in there which put me in seventh heaven because I had the notion that I could sing! Unfortunately for the neighbourse, I had an exceptional memory for words of songs, so persisted in serenading all and sundry with all the Vera Lynne and Anne Shelton songs of the day, what memories they must have had!!

'This story was submitted to the People’s War site by BBC Radio Merseyside’s People’s War team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with his / her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.'

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Childhood and Evacuation Category
Liverpool Category
North West Wales Category
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