Evacuation to the Country

Around the outbreak of World War II, thousands of children were evacuated from London to the countryside.  One evacuee was my Grandad who wrote about his experience:

“On the 1st of September 1939, two days before the outbreak of World War 2, together with my older brother George, I was evacuated to Hastings on the coast of East Sussex.  We left from the local train station in South East London wearing our name labels and carrying our gas masks and with something for the journey. Our stay in Hastings was ended in June 1940 when the situation became dangerous in that area (post Dunkirk) and we were to be transferred to Wales, however our parents objected and we returned to London.

London was devastated because of the effects of the Blitz, there was constant danger and our lives and education were disrupted.  Many schools were either completely destroyed or damaged and so it was decided we would have to be evacuated again.

Together with other children from the same area, we were sent to Launceston in North Cornwall and on arrival were sent to Boyton, a small village midway between Launceston and the coastal town of Bude. Once there, authorities assigned us to a local farmer Mr Davey and his family, who warmly welcomed us.

On arrival at the farm, Mr Davey took us around the farm buildings that housed the horses, cows, pigs and sheep.  This for me was unbelievable, a little boy who had come from London’s docklands where there were no fields, to this amazing countryside with all the animals.

We quickly settled in and became integrated into the village school with the local children.  Also we helped with the farm chores.  My tasks were to collect eggs, clean the cowsheds and pig stys, and eventually helping to milk the cows by hand.  A busy time was helping with the hay and corn harvest.

I believe I was very fortunate to be with the Davey family.  Mr Davey was a lay preacher t the local Methodist Chapel and happy times were had, especially at the festivals in whihc everyone took part.  Mrs Davey (who we called Auntie) treated us as her own.  Our parents visited occasionally and told us news of London, our only source of news was the radio.

In 1943, German POWs began working on the farm (under guard).  One of these prisoners had a son who was a similar age to me (10 years old) and he whittled me a toy plane out of wood.

In 1944, the American solider arrived in large numbers, storing their ammunition in the fields around the farm. They were very friendly giving us candy and sometimes a ride to school in their trucks.   It was sad to see them leave in June 1944, they were missed.

Mrs Davey’s health began to deteriorate during this period and they needed help with the farm, and so my brother (now 15 years old) left school to be employed by Mr Davey.

Soon after, in the Autumn of 1944, I became ill and as Mrs Davey was unable to cope, I was returned to my parents in London.  Unfortunately, this was a bad time for the V1 & V2 Rocket attacks.

V1 Rocket damage, New Cross Road, Deptford – very close to the family home at the time

I consider my time on the farm as a very happy period of my life in spite of the circumstances and at the end of the war years, I returned there for my holidays.”

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