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Rural Life in Wartime Shropshire

by AgeConcernShropshire

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
AgeConcernShropshire
People in story: 
Joy Newell
Location of story: 
Oswestry, Shropshire
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A6749995
Contributed on: 
06 November 2005

The onset of war gave us the awareness that great changes in life were to occur. At first nothing of great significance was noted in our close knit and secure family, which comprised of my police officer father, my mother, Ken and little sister Monica, I being the eldest child.
As if overnight, there was the arrival of three evacuees from Lancashire, and now without a mother, they were so frightened and withdrawn and fearful of the vastness of the countryside and varying animal noises. With good food and freedom to run and play with happy relaxed youngsters, they were soon restored to good health and incorporated into our family.

Being the eldest child, life became more restrictive and limiting for individual pursuits. Responsible for the conduct and safety of the youngest members, I was also expected to perform household duties, cleaning, cooking and such tasks. Any protest or argument by me never saw the light of day, as I was expected to perform without demur.

We used to hear in the distance the rumble of lorries and heavy vehicles and knew that the Army Convoys were approaching. By the time they had reached the village, children would have congregated under the flags, weary troops were saluted and cheered on their way to Transfyndd, their camp base, having travelled for hours. Like unstoppable determined dinosaurs they climbed up hill and down into the village disturbing the rural peace.

Transport for the rest of us was limited to walking, running, ride bare back, sans saddle and if lucky- like we were, owners of a car, essential for Dad who also had ownership of a telephone which conveyed messages to and for the local people.

To attend High School, 7 miles away, there was a school bus, which had been regarded as a geriatric prior to the commencement of the war. Motoring up and down the hills it used to periodically cease to function, requiring passengers to dismount while the bus gasped, steamed and blew. The bus would eventually be resuscitated with a clout off a tool, and a bucket of water at which it would splutter into life and continue the rest of the proposed journey.

On Market days farmers and their wives, possible to save on their own petrol supply, would also use the school bus, being the only transport available on occasions.
School children would queue up, waiting for the adults present to clamber aboard and be seated, then and only then was it the turn of the children, who stood or sat on proffered knees or balanced on bus steps clinging to hard rails as the bus rattled and rolled on its way.
Many of the farmers had comforted themselves at the local Inns and the aroma of not just hops, in such a crowded bus, used to be quite over whelming and in need of one’s gas mask!
With a few other children and being tall and agile, I used to leap up from the back of the bus seats and through the sky light roof, there to sit amongst the baskets of hens and market purchases of the day. It was quite exhilarating, being up aloft, and yet feeling safe, for ones ankles were firmly held by the seated passengers below!

Life had such moments of hilarity but grief and sorrow too at the loss of near relatives, family members in the forces and those of neighbours sons and daughters.
The bombing of Liverpool and Bootle, the deaths and damage that occurred was depressing news especially as we as a family had members of both my parents family living in the area.

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