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15 October 2014
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WAS HE REALLY CRYING?

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Mr. 'Ben' Harper
Location of story: 
Woodingdean, Brighton to Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A7420097
Contributed on: 
30 November 2005

I was 10 years old in 1940 and my parents had decided that I would be safer if I was evacuated to the country. So a friend of mine, Douglas Brandsbury and I were all gathered at our school, Warren Farm in Woodingdean and given labels with our names on it, with the surname first. Mine said 'Harmer, Martin', which I thought sounded funny. It was late Autumn and the Battle of Britain was over. I can't remember saying goodbye or anything about the journey north. We stayed overnight at a big, empty hospital and I remember we played games and slid around on the floor. Finally we reached Yorkshire and were put onto a bus to Warmsworth and emptied out onto the street, where people came to look at us. One lady picked Douglas and I was left nearly to the end but was finally chosen by an older lady who was very nice. I never saw my new 'foster mum's' husband because he was a miner. I had a tiny bedroom with a candle, a bed and a washstand.We would walk to school at Eddlington, and I remember singing the lovely hymn 'Jerusalem', which was the first time I'd heard it. One day we decided we'd walk to Doncaster and when we got to Balby, we came across a man near the railway arch, sweeping the road. He asked us where we were going and we told him and that we were evacuees. I'll never forget that the man had tears in his eyes when he heard, but whether this was due to our sad plight or the dust from the road, I'll never be quite sure! I sent my mum a recipe for making bread on a postcard from my new home, but was thrilled to find out a month later that I actually would be going home again. I don't remember much about the journey back except that I was excited when I saw the train we'd be travelling on; it was a Silver Swan express locomotive - wonderful! Then I was home after my adventure which felt even more wonderful. You know, I've still got my name label and that postcard I sent - even after all these years!

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