- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Mrs Anne Misselke nee Alexandre, Mr. Jim and Mrs. Ruth Alexandre, Mr. Alexandre snr., Mr. Cyril and Mrs. Mabel and Imelda Hamilton, Mr. Tom and Mrs. Laura Keyho and David Keyho, Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Elsie Langmead
- Location of story:
- St.Martin's, Guernsey, Weymouth, Dorset
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 26 January 2006
On left Dulcie Sackett and her son Michael on right Ruth Alexandre with daughter Anne Alexandre. Last picnic on the beach in June 1940 before evacuating from Guernsey.
Part one of an edited oral history interview with Mrs. Anne Misselke (née Alexandre) conducted by Jenny Ford on behalf of Bedford Museum.
“I was born on the Channel Island of Guernsey in January 1930 and I lived there very happily with my parents. We had my father’s father living with us because that grandmother had died just before I was born and I had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins all living on the Island. Guernsey is a lovely place for a child to grow up, it was then and it still is now safe - you could go out to play and things like that.
Life continued very nicely all the way through the Thirties and I can remember the day war was declared because my cousin Imelda had come to stay with us for the weekend. On the Sunday morning we girls were playing at dressing up on our landing, we had quite a big landing but it only had lino on the floor so when we had my mum’s high heeled shoes on we could make a lovely clippy cloppy noise. My dad came in from the garden for his elevenses and he put the wireless on. He had to have the wireless on very loudly because he wouldn’t admit to the fact that he was deaf and so we could hear the man on the wireless say, ‘Consequently we are at war with Germany.’ My mother said, ‘Oh, no!’ My father said, ‘Right!’ and we heard him get up and clump down the hall and go out into the garden again. He didn’t come back so we rushed to the window and we could see him digging, digging, digging under my mother’s gooseberry bush. Suddenly he shook it and the gooseberry bush was thrown over and then he went to the next one and we thought what is he doing? So we took off our dressing up clothes and we rushed up the garden and I said, ‘What are you doing daddy?’ He said, ‘I’m digging an air raid shelter because if the Germans come they are sure to drop bombs and we have to have a shelter in the garden I know because I was a soldier in the last World War.’ So all the rest of the time except for coming in to have his dinner he was digging this hole and in the afternoon my auntie Mabel and uncle Cyril came, they were going to have tea and then take Imelda back home with them. And of course uncle Cyril had also been a soldier in the war so he had to go up and inspect the hole and they decided if it was big enough and all through tea these two dads were talking about what would happen and we girls got fed up.
Anyway, life seemed to continue on. 1939 went by, we had a nice Christmas and then 1940 started and then the Germans were advancing through France and there was talk in May of perhaps being evacuated. There’d always been soldiers stationed on the Island, their duty was mainly to guard the Governor and ceremonial duties and in early June, at the beginning of June the British Government decided that they would leave the Islands open towns. So all the soldiers were evacuated and the Governors were taken off, the Governors of Guernsey and of Jersey. Guernsey was very far sighted and they had already made arrangements that should evacuation be needed they had got boats lined up unlike Jersey who hadn’t and they’d made arrangements for the children to be evacuated with the schools although the public didn’t know that.
My mum and dad were in the Civil Defence, my mum was doing the First Aid and my dad was in the equivalent to the Home Guard. He wouldn’t use the tin hat that was issued to him because he said, ‘It wasn’t strong enough’ so I’ve got a lovely picture of him in his uniform with his First World War tin hat over his shoulder. So, we weren’t a bit surprise when on the Wednesday the 19th of June the Evening Press plopped through the letterbox at lunchtime and the headlines were ‘Evacuation of Children’. If parents wish their children to be evacuated with the school they must take that child to their school at five o’clock this evening to be registered. That child can take one small suitcase in which there is one change of clothing, a small tin with some sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof, you can have a little piece of cake, you could have a twist of dried fruit or nuts in a twist of greaseproof paper. You could have an apple or a banana, not an orange because that would be too sticky. And so at five o’clock that afternoon we went to school to be registered. Now all the little girls in my class were there with their mummy’s being registered. They said, ‘Right’ and took our names, they told us what we could wear to travel in. You could have a dress on and your sandals and your socks and your cardigan and you could carry your raincoat and you must have somewhere on your person where a label could be put to say who you were and the name of your school. Come to school tomorrow morning at six o’clock. Now the reason why we had to go at six o’clock was because that was when the tide was coming in and the boats that had been commandeered were bigger than the normal mail boats and so they had to come in on a high tide.
So we all went home and we had something to eat and my mum said, ‘We’ll have to go to bed early because you’ve got to be ready to be at school at six.’ So the next morning my mother said, ‘Now then so that you can have more than one change of clothes you’ll put on two vests, two pairs of pants.’ I had a sun dress on the top and underneath that sun dress I had another little dress that looked like a blouse and then I had my cardigan which was a lovely knobbly wool cardigan that my grandma had knitted for me. I carried my raincoat and on my cardigan, in the buttonhole I had my label. And of course I could only have one pair of socks on otherwise I wouldn’t have got my sandals on. My sandwiches in my little tin box and a sponge bag and a little towel and you could take one toy. I had decided for my toy, my favourite thing at the moment, which I had been given for my Christmas I think or birthday, was a little red handbag with a little handle. I had lots of tiny weeney little books and I thought I could cheat I’d put my tiny weeney little books in that handbag you see and I’d have more than one thing and my hankies would cover them over. So that was going to be my toy. We went to bed and the next morning we went to school at six o’clock and we weren't all there, some of them weren’t, some of the little girls hadn’t turned up but the majority of us were there and we sat in school all day. We ate our sandwiches at dinnertime and the teachers would hardly let us go down to the toilet which was across the playground of course in those days — they had to go in the end otherwise they would have had a mess in the classroom. But we had to go there, run back in case the buses came and of course five o’clock no buses had come. So they said, ‘Alright children, go home and come again tomorrow morning at four’ that was because of the tide.
So we went home and of course our mums and dads were very surprised to see us but anyway we had something to eat and after we’d had something to eat my dad said, ‘Well let’s go and see if your mum has gone’ that was to my mum. Because my mother’s baby brother David is only actually 22 months older than I am, my mum was 20 when he was born. And so my grandma had said that she would go as a helper with David’s school and that grandpa was a School Attendance Officer and of course he would not be allowed to leave until ‘all his children’ as he called them had left. So we got our bikes out, we didn’t have a car only rich people had a car in those days, we got our bikes out and off we cycled. And as we were going along, my grandma lived in some lanes in the middle of the Parish of St.Martin’s where I lived and my dad said, ‘Oh let’s go through the school playground to see what’s happening.’ That was really not the correct, straight way to go to my grandma’s but we went that way and of course that’s when I began to get frightened. Because on the school playing field, we had a lovely playing field, there were loose cows wandering about and a few cats and dogs now in Guernsey that is absolutely unheard of even today! Cows are never loose, they are always tethered and these were just loose. And then there was a little kitten running about and suddenly two budgies flew overhead and perched on the roof of the toilet. Well we had a budgie as well and a kitten, I was very worried and I said to my mum, ‘Oh, if you go to England mummy you are not going to let Happy and Lucky out to fly about and walk about like that are you?’ She said, ‘Oh, no, no. I’ve arranged with Mrs. Langmead she’ll look after them.’ That was our next door but one neighbour and her husband was a Deputy Inspector of Police so of course the Police were not going to be allowed to go so she had said she would stay although two of their boys were going to be evacuated with our school. So we then went onto my grandma’s house. Now my grandma lived in this quite big house in these lanes and they had a positively enormous garden and it was absolutely full of everything you could eat, including chickens and a few ducks I think and vegetables and fruit trees, no lawn. So we went into the house, nobody ever locked their door, and we called ‘coo-eee, coo-eee’ no answer, no answer. We wandered all up and down the garden in case they’d been picking fruit which invariably they were in June, no — no sign of them. Then the chap in the next door equally as big garden, he was just picking some raspberries near the fence and he saw my mum and he said, ‘Oh, hello Ruth are you looking for your mum and dad?’ ‘Yes’ she said. ‘Oh, well’ he said, ‘your mum’s gone. David’s school went this morning and your dad is out. I saw him at about five o’clock and he told me was going out to try to persuade those parents who didn’t send their children to school this morning to send them tomorrow.’ ‘Oh’ my mum said, ‘right, right.’ So he said to me, ‘Do you like raspberries Anne?’ ‘Oh’ I said, ‘yes’ so he went inside and got a greaseproof paper bag and he gave me a nice lot of raspberries that of course I put into my little bag which I was going to take with me.
We went home and then my mum said, ‘We’d better go straight to bed now because we’ve got to be up very, very early tomorrow.’ So we went straight to bed and we got up and we were at school and we’d hardly got into the classroom and the teacher said, ‘Don’t sit down children, the buses are here.’ So off we went on the bus down to the harbour and there was this nice big boat waiting. We all got on the boat and we were told to find somewhere to sit and when the boat was full of children and teachers off it sailed. We sailed on and sailed on and about, I don’t know, about twelve o’clock I suppose, the teacher said, ‘Right, children you can eat your sandwiches now.’ We’d had to keep our little suitcase by our side you see — so we ate our sandwiches and then I thought to myself, oh goody I’m going to eat my raspberries now! So I opened my bag and you can guess the mess that was in there can’t you? All squashed raspberries, all my hankies were ruined as all the raspberries were squashed, all the little books were ruined — that serves me right for cheating!
So we sailed on and on and eventually, I don’t know how many hours it took, but anyway eventually we ended up outside a port, we could see this big white building with this sort of dome thing. There were two boats full of wounded soldiers at the side there, they waved to us and they had big red crosses on the side of the boats. We waved to them - you could see the bandages and the slings and everything. This was Weymouth that we landed at. So eventually we were all in this queue to get in, we got in and we had to form lines and then go into this building which was a big cinema. We had to go into this big cinema at Weymouth and then up the stairs and onto the area where the balcony seats were. There was a wide piece of walk way I suppose it was— you could look down onto the stalls. There were tables along here - three or four tables - there was a Doctor sitting and some Nurses. You had to go and form a queue, so many children at each table and they looked in your eyes, in your ears, up your nose, down your throat and see if you had any spots or anything. If you had any spots or anything they put you a pink label and you had go out one way. If you didn’t, if you were fit they gave you a white label and you went out the other way. I suppose it was a way of dividing the children. So I was a white label and I went out that way down the stairs and of course when we got to the bottom there we were on a Station with a train steaming and that was wonderful! I mean I’d never been on a boat, I’d been to greet relations coming off the boat but I hadn’t been on one. Even getting on the boat was exciting but seeing a train — oh, that was wonderful! They said, ‘Right children, get in, sit down.’ So we sat in this carriage and when it was full of children it went off and apparently two little girls got left behind. I don’t quite know why but I’ve got the article from the Stockport Express that tells of our arrival and it says two little girls were left behind.”
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