- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Russell and Shirley Greening
- Location of story:
- Bronxville New York
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 27 October 2004
In 1939 my parents decided that my sister Shirley and I should be evacuated from Birmingham where bombing was imminent. They chose America as our destination. I was 5 at the time and Shirley was 8.
We travelled on HMS Britannic in a party of about 12 watched over by Mrs Pope wife of the Captain - Captain Pope.
We were met by Henry and Ruth Ashton with their son John and taken to their home in Bronxville New York. Henry was a New York lawyer. The house was in a lovely area. We went to school at Bronxville High which was about 2 miles away. One of my lasting memories is that I regularly walked to and from school, on my own or with friends, something I don't think one would do now. The school was great, though I don't remember too much of my lessons. The Americans were into recycling to help the war effort and I remember being honorary "chairperson" of a committee collecting used Newspapers, presumably because they thought an English person though only 6 would add weight to their cause!
In the holidays we would go to a family uncle on a farm in Vermont or grandparents in Boston. The Ashton's also had a "shack" on the Big Wolf lake.
I enjoyed my stay, but I think my behaviour was a bit much for the Ashtons and we came home in 1943. On our last day we went up the Empire State building on a cloudy day.
We came home on a Portuguese ship "The Serpa Pinto" stopping at The Azores and Madeira on our way to Lisbon. Being 8 by then I still had little idea of what the war meant.
We were 14 days in Lisbon waiting for a flight, going to the airport each evening to see if there was space. I was told afterwards that on one of the evenings we were turned down, Leslie Howard (the actor) boarded the plane. His plane was shot down!
Eventually we boarded an overnight flight and were met by our worried parents at Bristol the next morning.
We kept in touch with the Ashtons and I still exchange cards with John. Next door in Bronxville was Johnny Burdett, my best friend who I also still see from time to time. We also kept in touch with Captain and Mrs Pope for a number of years at their home in Botley Oxford. I have been back to Bronxville a couple of times and everything is unchanged, the school, the shops, it really was and still is a beautiful suberb.
I believe my sister and I were extremely lucky to have had this time in our lives and we will always be grateful to the Ashtons.
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