Contributed by Jack Edward
People in story: Mr. Walford, Mr. Potter, Mr. Pitt, Peter Nottage, Reverend Brooks, Margaret Davis
Location of story: Woodford Essex; Maldon Essex; Trowbridge Wiltshire; Skipton Yorkshire
Background to story: Civilian
Article ID: A9005717
Contributed on: 31 January 2006
AN EVACUEE FROM WOODFORD, ESSEX
IN 1939 I was a six year old infant at Churchfields School, South Woodford, our school was evacuated to Maldon in September, we were taken with our teachers and Head Master Mr Walford and Mr Potter up to the Council Offices in the High Road, next to St. Mary’s Church. We all had our gas masks and evacuee label in our buttonhole and our cases with what clothes we could carry. Arriving at the Offices we were met by a fleet of London red buses, this was to be our mode of transport for our journey, I couldn’t understand why some of the children were crying, we were going on holiday. We scrambled on to the buses I’m sure we must have made a lot of noise in the excitement.
I can’t remember much about the journey but it must have taken some considerable time, bearing in mind the number of buses. When we arrived at our destination we were taken to a local school (I have been back to Maldon since and the school is still there), we must have been given some refreshment while we waited for the people to arrive who would be looking after us. I was chosen by a couple by the name of Pitt (I learned from a later visit that it was quite a common name for that area), Mr. Pitt was a fisherman on a fishing smack; like those they still have on the River Blackwater which runs through Maldon.
I stayed there for about a year or so and can remember some good times playing on the sand by the side of the swimming pool, which was fed by the river and was seawater as the Blackwater is tidal. There is a nice park we used to play in; the school was just around the corner making it easy to attend. I think I can remember our own teachers being there for a while.
When I came home from Maldon, we were living in Stanley Road, South Woodford, sharing a house with my Aunt and Uncle, during raids in the evening my uncle and I would stand in the porch and listen to the planes and hear the shrapnel raining down on the roofs of the houses. On my way to school the next day we would collect the shrapnel and compare it with our friends’ collection.
As the raids got heavier I was sent away again, this time to Trowbridge in Wiltshire, where I stayed with a family who owned a gentlemen’s clothes shop, they had three children of their own, two sons and a daughter. They were about five or six years older than me. They used to take me to the local park and boating lake; the boys had big sailing yachts, which they let me play with. I can remember standing in the playground of my school watching the “dog-fights” (our Spitfires and Hurricanes fighting the enemy planes), we were all shouting encouragement to them. We had allotments for the school and had gardening lessons, I can remember one boy using a gardening fork and plunging it into the ground, he missed and put it into his foot instead, this made me very wary of gardening!
On Thursday evenings I was allowed to go into the study and help count out the shops takings for the week; there was a another man who used to travel round to other shops, he had a baby Austin car, I used to go out with him sometimes. I was very happy there and was very sad when I had to move, the lady of the house contracted TB and so they moved me to another house in Trowbridge, this time I was with a family with a son who was younger than me. We used to grow vegetables in the garden, I can remember rows of carrots and onions, we used to go to the park and play near a World War I tank, which was later cut up and used in the war effort. All the garden railings to the houses were taken away and used for the war effort as well. There was an open-air swimming pool in the park, which we used to go to in the summer. I can’t remember how long I stayed in Trowbridge, but I came home again to Woodford and remembered seeing the “flying bombs”; one time I was round a friend’s home during an air raid and we saw a flying bomb coming over then the engine stopped and I thought it had landed on my home and ran along the road crying. Luckily it had landed a few streets away on a sweet shop, not many sweets though.
I was sent away again as the bombing was getting worse, this time to Skipton in Yorkshire, here I was able to stay with a friend (we pretended to be cousins, it was the same friend, Peter Nottage, whose house I was at when the flying bomb came over). This time we stayed with the Reverend Brooks and his wife, they never had any children. They had a nice house on the edge of town overlooking the fields and the River Aire, we were able to go and play near the river, I remember it flooding all over the fields we were not allowed to go near it then. We were taken to Church every Sunday and I joined the Scout troop attached to the church, I had a big Scout hat. My mother, who had been evacuated to Leicester with my baby sister, Margaret, would send me a postal order, which would arrive on a Saturday (I think it was for two shillings, a lot of money to me, this is equivalent to ten pence in today’s money).
We would go to the Saturday morning pictures and have a grand time in the town. I have been back to Skipton and it holds some happy memories for me.
We had to move from the Reverend’s house because his wife was expecting their first child. We were then sent to a little village outside Skipton called Eastby, this was to a hostel for evacuees, there were about eight of us. It was a lovely house with a little stream (called a beck) running alongside; this was a child’s paradise, we used to come home at least once a day having failed to jump over the stream at our regular jumping places! The lady who looked after us and did the cooking was a great friend of mine; we used to receive food parcels from America containing packets of chocolate powder, (like drinking chocolate today) she made chocolate puddings and chocolate custard. We would be given small packets of chocolate powder and use them as “rations” when we went for a walk over the moors which were just outside the door we needed these rations as we would be out all day. We would walk further along the River Aire to a place called Barden Tower, there is a ruined abbey called Bolton Abbey nearby on the river, with stepping-stones going across, we were quite good on these. We were sent to Church on Sun-days, a lovely little Church in the next village called Embassy. This was a walk about a mile across the fields, good in the summer, but we used to play truant in the cold weather.
We arranged sports days in a nearby field, running races and, of course, long jumps over the beck! I was out in the fields when we were called in to be told that the war with Germany was over, we didn’t worry about getting wet in the beck that night!
This was a very happy time for me, the moors and the hills have always been my favourite place for a holiday and as a family we have many happy memories and good times spent there.
Added comment by Arthur Cox. (see section 1)
Curiously, our family also lived in Stanley Road at South Woodford. But I do not remember a Jack Edward thought the name seems rather familiar. But Jack Edward was 4 years younger than I was. Another odd thing was that we (the Coxes) lived at No 16 Stanley Road and that was the same No as our temporary home in Maldon. Reading this again I now recall the name of Mr Walford the headmaster.
End of section 2
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