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Learning about the stars from a billeted soldier

by cornwallcsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cornwallcsv
People in story: 
John Beale
Location of story: 
Wakefield, Yorkshire
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4442690
Contributed on: 
12 July 2005

This story has been written onto the BBC People's War site by CSV Storygatherer Lyn Hedges on behalf of John Beale. They fully understand the terms and conditions of the site.

When I was a child we lived in Wakefield in Yorkshire. At the time of the evacuation of Dunkirk, we had several soldiers billeted on us. Because they had come more or less straight from the beaches, they had nothing in the way of possessions and arrived with just a blanket and a straw-filled mattress. They slept anywhere and were obviously dog-tired. A lorry came for them every morning and took them away for treatment, food and exercise. They came back each evening, filed into the house and settled wherever they could find space. I believe that Mother got some sort of payment for the billet, and each soldier brought with him a daily ration of tea, cocoa or sugar, which must have been a very welcome addition to the family rations.

Each evening the soldiers made a particular fuss of my sister Anne and I. They made us toys from bits of wood, read us stories and one young man, who had lost an arm in action, spent many hours teaching me about the stars. He made up cards with patterns of pinholes in them and held them up to the light so that I could learn about how the stars formed constellations.

As a young boy, I had no idea of the terrible circumstances that occasioned the rather strange and brief friendships we had with those soldiers. But I know my mother continued to receive letters and cards from them right up to the mid-1950s.

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