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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
Gloscat Home Front
People in story: 
John Cork
Location of story: 
Dover
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A4608696
Contributed on: 
29 July 2005

More than three thousand children in Dover were evacuated along with their teachers to Wales. This was due to the Government Emergency Act.

The first train steamed out of the Priory Station at about 07:45 on Sunday June 1st, 1940 carrying 707 children and 54 teachers and helpers. The next train at 09:20 with 687 children and 59 teachers and helpers. The third train left at 10:40 with 744 children and 64 adults. The fourth and last left at 12:40 taking 761 children and 58 adults.

My school, St. Bartholomew’s Boys, Girls and Infants went to Blackwood (Bedwelty Urban District) Monmouthshire. Only one thing was missing — me! There was one other, my future wife but she was only just over two years old. So we were never evacuated and as I have often said “What a lovely ward I had”. I was just five and a half years old. There were still 800 children in Dover.

13 October 1941. Schools were opened for children over the age of eight and only part time. As I was not over eight I did not have to go.

National newspapers had a field day with headlines:
“Cave kids sent back to school” Daily Express
“Children get cave drill before school” Daily Sketch
The children in Dover were called “Hell Fire Corner Children”.

May 1942. Schools in Dover were still open for only two and a half hours if the shelling and bomb attacks allowed. It was not until February 1945 that the last of the evacuation children returned.

The day-to-day outlook of returning evacuees was very different from that of those who had remained behind or had returned earlier. They had not experienced the explosions of bombshells and doodlebug bombs and the nightly excursions to the caves and shelters. They also lacked the familiarity with Service personnel, the fascination of observing low flying aircraft and warships in the harbour, but they made up for lost time when they discovered the delights of playing on bombsites — adventure playgrounds far superior to anything else. In no time at all they learned to climb in and out of skeletal buildings.

They began to collect and swap prized pieces of crashed aircraft, canon shells, detonators, hand grenades, motor bombs, bullets and I still have a piece of shrapnel and a ‘Bofor’ Gun shell case.

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