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15 October 2014
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Memories of an Evacuee from Leeds, Yorkshire

by historycentre

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Eric Marsh
Location of story: 
Addingham, Wharfedale Yorkshire.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
06 October 2004

Having seen the article in the Evesham Journal requesting stories about World War 11 I felt the need to let you know my experiences at that time, although they are not connected with Worcestershire I feel that you know the right person to pass them on to please.

At the outbreak of war I lived in Leeds, Yorkshire, and although other children were being evacuated in the normal way my mother wanted some choice so I became a 'private evacuee'. For various reasons I had a few places but the main one was Addingham in Wharfedale, Yorkshire, and all the memories come from there.

1. Early in the war (1940) I was at Addingham Low Primary school, there was a 'high' (to me at the time) stone wall around the playground. On one side a shallow stream ran on the other side of the wall. One day at playtime an aeroplane (don't ask what sort) with the R.A.F. roundels on flew over. Everybody rushed to that side of the playground, and some, including me climbed the wall to get a closer view. Guess who ended up in the stream!

2. Whilst at the same school we had a book collection, this was a general thing, depending on the mount of books one collected one was given a pasteboard badge with an Army rank on it. The highest being Field Marshall, I still have mine somewhere.

3. At Addingham one side of the Wharfe valley is bounded by Beamsley Moor, Beamsley being the hamlet about l mile from where I was lodged, and on the other side by Addingham High Moor. I was near to High Mill and about a mile downstream was Low Mill, which was being used for producing munitions.

One night we had a lone bomber (the only one I ever saw in that area), he dropped a stick of bombs. The first one landed and blew a hole in the road just outside Beamsley, the rest in a straight line across the field towards Low Mill but ending well before. This area became quie a tourist attraction for us for quite a while afterwards. Bearing in mind there were no fighters, no searchlights, no AA guns, just a clear run. Do you wonder the Germans lost the war.

4. Another night a lone 'plane, a Mosquito, came over Beamsley Moor, very low and on fire, crossed the valley but crashed on Addingham High Moor. By this time I had changed lodgings, and schools, so my new school was Addingham High, only by virtue of the fact that it was at a higher altitude but still a primary. Next morning at school all the boys from that end of town were showing off the ammunition from the crash site, they had been up early that morning. The next thing was that the police came round the school asking for all the souveniers back.

5. When I was in the top class, eleven years old, we were asked to volunteer to go and 'pick' potatoes on a local farm, this was in school time. Naturally my hand went up, only to be told that I couldn't go because I was an evacuee. The strange thing was that at weekends and school holidays I was doing the same job, in the same field but with Italian Prisoners of ar for company.

Strictly speaking Addingham was a large village, the main industry was woollen weaving mills, of which there were an awful lot, and there was Brear's Saw Mill where the man of the family worked. This was a true saw mill where they had a team going round felling the timber bringing it back to be stored until it was ready to be cut up. In the mill itself it seemed that they produced everything possible in wood, from possers to chairs and many other items. As an eleven/twelve year old I, and a few others were made welcome, and it was a wonderful place to play. We were told where we could go, and what we could touch, but that still left a lot of scope for fun. We would watch the crane bringing the logs to the saws for cutting up, the machines turning the wood into shapes and the finished products being made up. Questions were answered, we were allowed to help, like moving sawdust and shavings from the machine area, and even oprate a 'barrel sander'. One of the treats was delivering firewood (logs), there was a pony (Shetland size) with a small cart, this we used to fill and deliver to houses in the area, the furthest being in Ilkley three miles away. It was a case of walk there, ride back.

7.Then there was the season when 'metal hoops' were in fashion. These were a circle of approx. 10mm steel rod bent into a circle approx. 700mm diameter with a loose handle around the rim, made by the blacksmith. We would bowl around at high speed, no doubt terrorising everybody, until the weld came apart, and then it would be back to the blacksmith for repairs.

8. Among the other, more 'normal' type of shops, we had at the top end of the village we had a clog maker. These were the type with wooden soles, leather uppers and steel 'shoe' on the sole. They were very comfortable, and brilliant for sliding in the school playground. Presumably they were more economical than normal footwear at the time (with normal use)

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