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U3A Writing: When I Was An Evacuee

At the outbreak of war John Smith was told by his grandma that he was going to stay with his aunt in the country. "I wondered why I had not heard about this "Aunt" before, and was puzzled my Grandmother's reticence on the subject. I did not realise that she did not have a clue, where I was going, but was just carrying out Government instructions for the safety of children.''

'The day war broke out,'' (I cannot resist quoting this well known Rob Wilton phrase) my Grandma said to me "Your are going to stay with an aunt in the country.

I conjured up images of a farm bustling with sheep, pigs and cows. I wondered why I had not heard about this "Aunt" before, and was puzzled my Grandmother's reticence on the subject. I did not realise that she did not have a clue, where I was going, but was just carrying out Government instructions for the safety of children.

The next day at a hastily arranged school assembly we were told that we were going away the country. I was amazed at all the long lost aunts that had suddenly made an appearance. However ten year old boys in those days were seen and not heard, we did not question the voice of authority.

Within days my twelve year old brother and I were escorted by our Grandma to the railway station along with other children, hundreds of them it seemed. My brother and I wore our best suits with berets to match. The berets were insisted upon by our Scottish grandma. We clutched an assortment of parcels and bags and gas masks in cardboard boxes. We were a trifle bewildered although accustomed to travelling. Our dear grandma would place us on the train at Southampton when I was only five in charge of the guard who would hail a taxi at Paddington. From there to Kings Cross and then on to Aberdeen to our father.

Now though, where were we going? Several trains left the station at Southampton, our train puffed away leaving our grandma and other parents in a cloud of steam. Some trains went to Bournemouth but our train went to Christchurch, a comparatively short journey to our Scottish trips. We were taken from the train to a large school hall. There we were all inspected and sort of graded, the bottom of the class being the black finger nails, dirt behind the ears and nits in the hair brigade. These were the last to be chosen by all our new adopted aunties.

My "aunt" soon appeared on the scene and was ready just to take me, but I insisted that my brother came along as well, perhaps that was my first sign of rebellion in my young life.

We were not taken to a farm, bur a large house, it's front room was a sweet shop. One would have thought that we would have been inundated with sweets, but unfortunately no. Our adopted aunt and uncle were pleasant, kind and quite well off, what with their large house, sweet shop and a car. Due to petrol rationing (like the sweet rationing) we did not go out for many trips.

After a few months my brother ran away back to my grandma, why I was really not sure, however I stayed on. The aunt and uncle wished to adopt me but my father was not willing.

Eventually I moved to Birmingham with my father, who was working there for an engineer and had a busy life travelling around at home and abroad. Again I was evacuated as the bombing was excessive in the area, and once more to my grandma.

An interesting varied young life, a nomadic existence, perhaps cynically speaking "from pillar to post". An experience not just peculiar to me but shared by many of my peers.

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