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Big Girls Don’t Cry

by threecountiesaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mrs Kathleen Collins (nee O’Reardon) mum and dad (London) Foster Mum and Dad
Location of story: 
Carmarthenshire South Wales
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
18 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War Site by Three Counties Action, on behalf of Kathleen Collins, and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

I was born on 21/10/1935 into a large family in West London. When I started the convent school in 1939, I vaguely remember running to the Anderson Shelter,- but not much else.

My father enlisted (called up) in 1939 which left my mother 3 sisters and a little brother. Everything seemed all right for a time, but 1940 Then things got really bad, our house was bombed and so we all went with mum on a coach independately to Carm. S. Wales the billeting officer met us and to ok us all to a house there.

My memories are of tomato soup the smell still remains! One day in 1940 mother announced she would be going home to London with my young brother, but we were to remain in Carm. S. Wales. The billeting officer introduced my two sisters and I to 3 elderly ladies (older than my own Mother) They took us separately to their own homes. Instantly my Aunty got the tin bath out and washed me a tsp Castor Oil BATHED EVERY FRIDAY after Uncle. I’d come from a home with a bathroom and inside my two sisters lived next door but one, to each other but I was a ½ mile away. We went to the same school, but lived our own lives. My two sisters went to the local school, so I had to go there too. But it was a long way for my little legs to carry me about 1 mile each way.

My Auntie and Uncle as I called them spoke Welsh all the time, so I soon became the same. I won lots of prizes for singing and reciting in Welsh.

Its funny how you adjust to anew life outwardly, but inside it hurts. I was lucky I was billeted to kind people, who I never forgot. My daily food was garden produce potato leek beetroot etc. when I cut my leg very badly, it was just held together by a sock Never ever saw a dentist or a toothbrush. Therefore my teeth were poor.

My teacher came from London, but we were in a separate Evacuee classroom from the others. The Welsh children abused us, verbally and physically. Threw stones called us names my eldest sister went back home 1942. So that was very difficult for me to understand — why her not me? My other sister remained. Very rarely saw her But at the end of the war, we left by train to return to London my sister and I were so upset we cried we didn’t want to leave Auntie and Uncle. It was a long journey, by steamtrain to Euston Stn. Then by coach to Middlesex where we lived. WRVS ladys on the train gave us sandwiches. When we got off the coach, this strange man in Army uniform told us he was our Dad. But nothing registered, the lat time I saw him was 1940.

Then home to Mum and the family, by now there were two other children! Whereas before I had a bedroom of my own, Now there were 3 of us in 1 bed

Back at the convent school I was put in a class with children of my age, who were far below my level. And so I gave up, I lost interest.

When I left school, I worked in a shop, but I knew I didn’t want to really; but the job was selected to my convent school.

I sat for 2 o levels when I got married, and took up nursing, before that I worked as a civil servant.

MY husband went to his Aunt in Denham during the war, He didn’t receive any education, as such. He finds reading hard Evacuation has left me in a state of insecurity, throughout my life. No confidence. I’ve had a nervous breakdown, and was told nit was due to my evacuation. Separation from my parents! Felt different towards mum and dad. better now, when I pack for a holiday, I panick at the sight of the suitcase. We evacuees should have been given a medal. I’ve got six grandchildren. I hope they never go through this — EVER!

To day, I’m left as a loner with my remaining sisters and brothers, (which eventually became seven siblings children.) Because I never ever felt wanted. When I left Wales they had their own grandchildren to care for. Even now with my own children, son and daughter Ive had terrible times, trying to be a good Mum (unsuccessfully sometimes) my husband was a better parent than me. I’m sure!

How could the Governemnt possibly send very young children like me, to a strangers house? And be stripped off and put in a tin bath and decombed for fleas like an animal? Without any supervision I was told “Big girls don’t cry” But I did all the time! My sister ran away, when she saw a tin bath she thought they were going to drown her. Poor thing!

Id love to tell you more but Ive run out of space!

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