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What it was like to be
an evacuee in World War Two

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It is important to remember that:

• Children over five were evacuated to strangers or relatives which meant that they were often seriously homesick and often not made welcome. Their mothers were required to stay at home or elsewhere working for the war effort.

• Children under five were normally evacuated with their mothers. Where they lived meant little to them as long as their mothers were with them, which they were. (It must have been difficult for the receiving householders to be forced to accommodate families of mothers and young children - see what it was like to take in evacuees).

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One of the lucky ones

I was about five years old when I was evacuated without my mother to Littleborough, between Rochdale and Smallbridge in Lancashire. I can't remember leaving home or the train journey; my first recollection was being in some kind of hall which had iron beds all along each wall. Families who were to foster us evacuees were allowed to choose, and I was lucky enough to be chosen by an extremely nice couple who had a daughter of my age. So although I did feel extremely shy and out of place in my new home, I soon overcame these problems. Everyone was really nice and quite a lot of entertainment was laid on for us evacuees, usually in Rochdale Town Hall. A much enjoyed treat was being taken to a parkland swimming pool by pony and trap. On a bus trip, the driver purposely bounced us into the air by driving at speed over a humpback bridge, making everyone laugh. I realise though that many evacuees were not as lucky.

I attended the nearby old fashioned school house where about 15 children of all ages were taught by one teacher and in one room. Writing was on framed slate using the slate equivalent of a pencil. A damp cloth removed anything written which was most economical.

I never saw or spoke to my mother for two to three years. However, she must have been in touch with my foster mother because items of clothing etc occasionally arrived by post, and I am sure she sent money because my first ever pair of clogs was bought for me.

I returned to London when I was about 7½. The only problem I can remember with resettling was not being able to make myself understood, unless a neighbour from the north acted as my interpreter. Even she had occasional difficulty with my 'strange' language; I readopted my original accent fairly quickly though.

Sadly, I lost all contact with my northern foster parents after returning to London, except for one letter. So I've never been able to thank them properly. I have, however, built up their family tree in order to remind me of people and places to remember.

Albert Smith

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The not so lucky ones

I met two of the evacuee boys many years later in London and they told me how awful it had been for them. Many evacuees were exploited or neglected.

Anne Davey

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Why I was so upset as an evacuee

I was evacuated to stay with my aunt. When I heard her talking about the bombs and deaths in London, nothing would convince me that my parents were still alive. I was in such a state that I had to be allowed back home as only seeing them would convince me that they hadn't been killed. I suspect that many other evacuee children must have suffered in the same way.

Pat Roll

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Why so many evacuations were short

My experience

During the war the Salford and Manchester areas were less built-up and were thought of as separate towns. So some children from Manchester were evacuated to my parents on the outskirts of Salford even though this was only about five miles away. Not surprisingly this evacuation didn't make the children any safer! The whole area was very heavily bombed in 1940 and 1941, with attacks particularly aimed at the Old Trafford industrial area and the Manchester Ship Canal. The bombing was inaccurate and at least one bomb fell in my parents' street. So the evacuees' mother took her children back home, because she could see they were no safer with my parents than they were with her.

Alison Tomlin

I was a baby when the Second World War started, so, like all children under five years old, I was evacuated out of London, along with my mother. I know that it didn't last long because she felt that she would rather die in her own home than live in someone else's.

If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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