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15 October 2014
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Evacuation: Walthamstow to Kettering

by ROdell

Contributed by 
ROdell
People in story: 
Ruth Odell
Location of story: 
England
Article ID: 
A1941996
Contributed on: 
31 October 2003

I was a pupil at Walthamstow High School for girls when the war started, and at the end of August 1939,when I was sixteen, my family and I were on holiday in Guernsey, and because my Father was a teacher at Shoreditch Central School, we had to cut our holiday short so that he could report to his school for evacuation.
I was also going to evacuate with my school.
So after we were back at Walthamstow, I went to my school and Father went to his. My eldest sister Peggie worked for Shell petroleum, and her office was evacuated to Bournemouth and my middle sister Amy worked for Lloyds Bank and she had to stay with an Aunt in Loughton, so that she could go to London each day. So on Sept. 1st 1939 our family was split up; and my Father and I had no idea where our respective schools would be going for evacuation.
We had to take a suitcase with the bare essentials and gasmasks and we processed in a crocodile to Walthamstow Station and got on a train. We eventually got to Kettering where, after much delay we were assigned to foster parents. I and a friend went with a young couple who had a baby. I don't remember much of what happened during the next week, except that we met each day as a school at the football stadium and sang popular songs and after a week we were moved on to Wellingborough, where I spent the next three years at school.
I was billeted with Mr and Mrs Lanspeary who had a daughter of similar age to me, in the 6th form of Wellingborough High School. The arrangement was that our school used various rooms in the town in the mornings and we used Wellingborough High School in the afternoons and they used halls in the town in the afternoons. So each morning we met in the Congregational Church for prayers, and our Headmistress read out the venues for each form, for the rest of the day.eg the science 6th form, of which I was a member,had Physics in the skittle alley of the YMCA. This was a tiny room, which didn't matter, because there were only 2 or 3 of us doing Physics, and it had the tiniest grate with a coal fire, which we had to poke with our rulers to keep it going, providing a minimum of heat in the depths of the Winter. I was also doing Zoology,and we were expected to dissect a dogfish or a rabbit, but these were not available for schools during wartime. But we heard that the rival school's guinea pig had died and been buried, so we found the burial site, and dug it up for dissection!
We tried to carry on with Physical Education and best we could. We had the use of the High School swimming pool, and we had school teams of netball in the Winter and tennis in the Summer, and played some matches against nearby schools.The staff were absolutely marvellous in these adverse conditions, and helped in any difficulties which arose with so many girls of all ages away from home for the first time.
After a few weeks I got ill with infective hepatitis, and when I was better I had to be re-billetted with Rev, and Mrs Dagger. He was a Baptist Minister and I went to his churgh on Sundays. A friend lived there with me called Edna Kenny. I was two years in the 6th form to do Higher School Certificate in science subjects to get exemption from 1st MB. as I had by then decided to do Medicine. I did the Cambridge Entrance exam, and had to go to Cambridge for two days by train, and changing at Bedford, and changing stations. I eventually passed Higher School Certificate and got a place at Cambridge to do Medicine. I had 2 years at Cambridge completing the Natural Science Tripos and 2nd MB. and then went to the Royal Free Hospital for another 3 years to qualify as a doctor.
In early 1945 a bomb fell on the medical school and as I was then doing a surgical course I was up all night assisting the surgeons operating on the casualties.
My parents returned to Walthamstow after about 2 years of war, because so many children didn't want to remain evacuated because fewer bombs were falling. When bombing did start again, my parents used their coal cellar as n air-raid shelter and had beds down there for when the sirens went. I could write lots more, but not at the moment

I should have said earlier that I can't remember howwww all our family members got to know where each other was after we had evacuated on Sept, 1st 1939.

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