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15 October 2014
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Evacuees and Home Guard in Keynsham

by hersantminor

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Margaret Smith
Location of story: 
Keynsham, Somerset
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
30 April 2005

I was evacuated with my sisters and my parents to Keynsham in August 1939, and so was well established there when war broke out.
In September we children wandered down to the school hall to see the, mostly parentless, evacuees arrive from London. The place was teeming. Local householders had no choice about taking an evacuee, unless they had a good reason, and the "lucky ones" had been summoned to the school hall to choose the child, or children, they fancied. The plain ones were inevitably left behind, and those who wouldn’t be separated from younger siblings. Poor kids - a long day, away from all familiar surroundings, and now no one wanted them. I remember late in the day seeing the WVS etc. touring the village with these left-overs, pleading for a billet. Our lovely neighbour took one such girl in, despite having a large family of her own (and a small house!) The girl stayed for some years quite happily.
Soon many returned to London to their anxious parents. When raids began on London in 1940, another large evacuation was carried out, and I was again present for a repeat run of the school hall experience.
Once adapted to country life, most evacuees were happy, and some even stayed on after the war. A fellow Girl Guide in my company was one.

Home Guard

In September 1942 I joined the Admiralty Home Guard “C” Company (Signals). Women had no official uniform, unlike the men, so were issued with large plastic badges and a certificate asserting that they were “authorised to follow the Armed Forces of the Crown, and entitled in the event of capture by the enemy to be treated as a prisoner of war……”
Although most Home Guard women were cooks or First Aiders, the signals company was more exciting. We trained in Morse code on RT18’s and RT38’s and learned to shoot (I wonder to this day where my bullet went, whilst practising on the range near Pultney Bridge) We reeled out cables across fields and attended weekend camps at Bleedon, Weston-Super-Mare.
On the way to Bleedon camp in June 1944, we passed hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles. Two days later on the way home, all were gone to the D Day landings

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Childhood and Evacuation Category
Home Guard Category
Somerset Category
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