Evacuation of children in WW2

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Tizer
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Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Tizer » 13 Dec 2013, 16:28

At the beginning of World War 2 many children were evacuated from London to other parts of Britain to protect them from bombing raids and from the immediate danger of invasion. The evacuation had been planned some years before as it became apparent that there would be a need to move large numbers of children if war did take place. Below is the transcription of a letter sent by my father-in-law, then 11 years old, to his parents describing the evacuation and some of the experiences of he (Donald) and his younger sister (Joan) afterwards. His father was in charge of the Sewage Works at Gravesend, Kent, and the two children were evacuated by ship from Gravesend to Lowestoft arriving on 3rd September 1939.

----------------------------------------------------
My Dearest Mum & Dad,
Thank you very much for your nice letter it was very good of you to write. I have decided to tell you what happened to us, until now, and so here you are.

When we got to school we waited for about half-an-hour before starting a tromp down to the L.M.S. pier. When there, we boarded the `Royal Daffodil' a lovely boat and we started off. We were on the sun deck in the front part of the ship and had a lovely journey in spite of the fact that about 5/6 of the load were sea-sick. Joan and I were not sea-sick but the voyage was very rocky. On board we were given free milk, buns, postcards and we could have as much or many as we wanted. When at Lowestoft we landed, we went on a short trip by bus, to the Odeon Cinema where we saw films at night, got free food & slept, some on the stage, some in the straw they had there and some, as with Joan, on mattresses in the circle. I slept on the stage with about 200 others. Robin & John slept on the floor wrapped up in coats as did most of the thousand children there. We were allowed to go paddling at Lowestoft and so we did and had a good time. From there we came straight here. [Mr & Mrs Godfrey, St Mary's Road, Beccles]

It is a lovely day here, the sun is shining and Joan has gone for a walk with a little girl who lives next door. After Joan's rucksack cord broke I managed to mend it and as for her carrier bag I put her things into mine as well as into her haversack and my rucksack. I laughed at one part of your letter because although Mr & Mrs Godfrey have a huge garden they have not got one inch of lawn. They have nut trees, plum trees, apple trees & pear trees & we can take what we want off all of them. The house is very old-fashioned, not having gas or electricity, cooking is done by oil, the same for lighting. The wireless whispers to you when properly tuned in and is worked off one high and one low tension batteries, which must not be used for long. There is a cuckoo clock here which fascinates us very much and we stand watching it. Mrs Godfrey says thank you for the letter and that we will be fine with her as long as we are here. I am glad to know you are OK same as us and that you are well. We will let you know if anything is required so, `Keep Smilin'.
Lots of love & kisses from your loving son, Donald
----------------------------------------------------

The letter ends with three lines of kisses (xxxxx...), the first for Mum, the next for Dad, and the last labelled as `the ones to share'.

It became clear that the elderly couple were not well-suited to coping with children, especially with such an active pair accustomed to getting up to `high jinks'. Also the children were not getting proper meals and lived on the orchard fruit, chocolate etc. They were moved to another couple and spent the rest of the time there. At one stage Donald showed his compassion and his knowledge of physics by setting up a light bulb in a tin can to heat the bed of the couple they were staying with. Fortunately he didn't burn down the house or electrocute them!

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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Stanley » 14 Dec 2013, 05:12

Lovely letter Tiz and such a good piece of social history. I can remember how worried my parents were because in the early days of the war everyone was convinced that bombing would start immediately. I don't think there was any general evacuation in Stockport but father took action himself and my sister and I, with our mother, spent about 4 months with the Hancock family at Burr's Mount, Great Hucklow in Derbyshire. We had a wonderful time and the Hancocks were very good to us. There was an old lead miner called Mr Chapman who lived alone in a cottage nearby and we spent a lot of time with him, he was fascinating, house full of cats and a wonderful clock under a glass dome decorated with the flags of all nations. Funnily enough, as time went on and nothing happened, father moved us back home just in time for the Manchester Blitz which included us! The jerries were after the great railway viaduct about half a mile away from us. Interesting times!
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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by LizG » 14 Dec 2013, 10:18

My Mum and her brother were evacuated to Australia during the war. She was 14 at the time and he was a few years younger. They were lucky enough to have family to live with over here but were separated for 5 years and they never gained the bond back.

When we moved over here she was contacted by an association to do with the Aussie evacuees and went to many reunions over many years; it was suprising how many of the children sent over on the boat with her had re-settled back in Aus. Sadly most of them have passed away now.
Liz

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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Tripps » 14 Dec 2013, 12:14

"we boarded the `Royal Daffodil' a lovely boat "


That brings back a memory. The Royal Daffodil, and its sister ferry boat, the Royal Iris were on the Mersey in the late 1950's, where they provided a valuable service to those who could not manage a full afternoon without beer. They sailed, and avoided the licensing laws, from New Brighton when the pubs closed after lunch, until they opened again in the evening. Known locally as The Booze Cruise.
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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Stanley » 15 Dec 2013, 06:21

Mother used to take us to Liverpool during the war for a day out. A ride on the Mersey Ferry (and of course the Daffodil was one of them) tea in a large department store and home. I can remember having a salad with boiled seabird's eggs.... Oh, and riding on the old elevated railway!
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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Tizer » 15 Dec 2013, 15:52

There seems to be some confusion over the MV Royal Daffodil. The first was a Mersey ferry built in 1906 which was bought by the New Medway Steam Packet Co in 1933 for operation on the Thames but then sent to the breakers in 1938. The name was then adopted by General Steam Navigation Co Ltd for its new ship built in 1939 which is the one that operated the evacuation trips from Kent. This ship operated booze cruises from Kent to France in the 1950s and then with rock bands. It was broken up in 1967. There is currently an MV Royal Daffodil working as a ferry on the Mersey but it began life as the MV Overchurch in 1962 and was given the new name after a major refit in 1998. I haven't found any record of an MV Royal Daffodil working on the Mersey in the 40s or 40s. Sorry to be pedantic, but once a pedant always a pedant! :grin:

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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Tripps » 15 Dec 2013, 18:09

Be as pedantic as you like tizer. :smile: I was just working from memory, but can date it fairly precisely (from my age at the time) to 1959 / 60. Having had a longer think - it was probably the sister ship Royal Iris which I remembered, and since it had a sister ship, the Daffodil, I assumed it did the same. Perhaps Bruff will pop round to New Brighton, and get some old codger from the Royal Ferry hotel where I was working at the time to clarify the situation.
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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Stanley » 16 Dec 2013, 05:06

Funny, I could have sworn they were called the Daffodil and the Iris..... It would be before 1947 I think.
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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Tizer » 16 Dec 2013, 10:17

It looks like Tripps is thinking of the second Royal Iris, which started work on the Mersey in 1951 and was at one time known as the `fish & chip' boat and also managed to collide with the old battleship HMS Duke of York. It's still in existence (the Iris, that is) but the history is so detailed and eventful that I'll direct you to the wikipedia page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MV_Royal_Iris
The first Royal Iris and Royal Daffodil ferries took part in the Zeebrugge raid in WW1 which is worth reading about. Here's some film relating to that:
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/zeebrugge
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/zeebrugge-day-1

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Re: Evacuation of children in WW2

Post by Whyperion » 23 Dec 2013, 01:02

Thats a better letter at 11 than I could write now !

I don't think my Dad had a too good evacuation experience ( he does not talk about it that much , I think he was separated from his younger brother and both not treated too well )

My mum I think went down to Devon with her mum and other family members (her older brother being initially on exercises in the army around Plymouth , prior to eventual liberating of Belguim ) . Mum turned 14 while in Devon and became a bit of a pupil-teacher to younger evacuees and locals. I think they still travelled back to London, risking the bombings and later V weapons, things lost in WW2 included ornaments off the mantlepiece, a cat, and a (rented) house, within 1/2 mile others lost their lives.

We still went back for many years to holiday in the area and visit the friends made. As my birthday was in the school holidays this was sometimes celebrated up on Dartmoor with their children padding in the cool streams on the hotter July days.

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