Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Tuesday, 1 September 2009 18:43 UK

WWII evacuees: Your stories

Evacuee children
Around 3.5m people were removed from cities and towns to safer areas

A commemorative service has been held at London's St Paul's Cathedral to mark the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of British citizens in World War II.

BBC website readers have described what they and their families experienced as evacuees. Here is a selection of their stories.


I can remember very clearly how I left Paddington Station that early September morning surrounded by other kids, each of us with a small suitcase and our gasmasks in a box hanging on a cord around our necks. As a Cockney sparrow who had rarely, if ever, visited the countryside, it was amazing to be surrounded by all that green stuff - trees and grass - when we got to our destination, Aylesbury. The ensuing few years, remembered occasionally by a return to that charming place, were most happy. The only drawback was the distant glow in the night sky as London was being pounded in the Blitz.
Graham Brown, Caterham, Surrey, UK

My mother was evacuated to Wales from Folkestone to avoid the bombing. Her first billet was with an old lady who used to own a shop. Mum was given the out of date food and she also told me about having to scrape the mould from the top of a biscuit. Her second placement was on a very large farm where they bred and killed pigs. She told me she used to run to the end of the farm as she couldn't stand the noise they made when they were being slaughtered. Mum returned to Wales on a holiday in the 80s and went to see the large farm, only to find that she had grown and the farm had shrunk.
Elaine Newland, Camberley, Surrey, UK

Photo: John Cumberland
John Cumberland sent pictures of his time in Brighton

I was nine years old when I left my mother and father on September 1st to be walked, two by two, from St Margaret's infants school to Victoria Station. Little did we know that the train that we all boarded was to go to Brighton - by the seaside!! I was "taken in" by Mr Percy and Mrs Ivy LUCK. We would never realise, at the time, how lucky we were. I know that my real education in life started with the caring and consoling warmth offered to both of us during our nine month stay as evacuees. In July 1940 we were all sent back to London as France was about to fall. Back to a London that was about to experience the impending blitz. That is another story.
John Cumberland, London

I was evacuated privately as we lived in Hounslow and the Government thought we were safe there. My brother and I stayed with a Mrs Morgan who kept the helmet of her husband who had been killed in World War I in the hall. On the journey to Wales we saw our first live lambs and we were so excited. I had never seen a mountain before and was disappointed not to see snow on the top. We used to climb up to the mines and follow down the stream, paddling in the cold water. I never got used to having condensed milk in my tea and I've never found out whether it was usual in South Wales. During the period of the war I attended 7 different schools but I got a "tour" of the UK.
Beryl Waldorf, Barnet, UK

Some nice stories but I think the reality was considerably less positive from what my parents have told me. Evacuated from Southampton, my father lived with 10 different families between the ages of 13 and 16, hardly saw his parents and effectively had his education - and his self esteem - destroyed by it. Some of the treatment he received would be classed as child abuse today - and of course, no checks were run on people who took kids in. From today's perspective, the whole idea looks like an unbelievably stupid overreaction.
Mark, London, UK

My sister and I were evacuated from Camberwell, London, in 1940 to a small village on the west coast of Wales. I was four and she was five. We stayed until 1945 and only saw our parents a couple of times during the war. We went to a small Welsh-speaking only school and returned home more Welsh than English. It didn't do us any harm. I guess we were lucky to escape the bombing in London. My parents used to go under the baby grand piano instead of the Anderson shelter when the sirens went. It's hard to believe how folk in cities just took it all in their stride at the time.
Harry Rogers, Camberley, UK

I came to Britain as a war refugee from Belgium in May 1940, prior to my 10th birthday. In February 1941 the Blitz was an on-going nightly event forcing my parents and I to shelter in Swiss Cottage underground station. Next thing I knew, I was evacuated but didn't have the slightest idea of what was happening or where I was going. The destination turned out to be Hungerford, Berkshire. From a relatively comfortable boarding room, I suddenly found myself in a dimly gas-lit thatched cottage with an elderly couple, who were about as warm and welcoming as a pair of ancient funeral attendants. Looking back, that cultural shock was like being thrust in grimmest rural Thomas Hardy country. But with the advent of Spring I was transferred to live with the most caring couple that I could have wished for. I stayed there two years, enjoying the best years of my early teens.
Sluszny, Ilin, Mollans sur Ouveze, France

I remember hearing of the invasion of Poland, and the declaration of war on Germany. I went out to our driveway, looking up at the sky and wondered if I would see enemy warplanes - not that day! Having just turned four I was not in school, and was not evacuated until we had survived the peak of the Blitz in 1940 when I went to Berkhampstead for a few weeks. The foster-place was a bad fit - the ill-tempered man even threatened to nail my feet to the floor if I didn't stop moving, so back home I went. During the Doodlebug phase I was placed in Banbury with a fine family but returned by September 1944 to start in grammar school. Many years later the family home on my birth certificate, and in the family until 1999, became the 1940s House. The Imperial War Museum copy is at the centre of the Children's War Exhibition.
Peter Richardson, Providence, USA

I was one of the children evacuated from Moston, Manchester, to a place called Clayton Le Moors. I was never told by anyone where or why I was going and remember crying and fretting for my mother. Although the couple who I stayed with were really nice and had a beautiful home, all I wanted to do was go back to my mother and nana in our small terraced house in Manchester. It had an impact on my life and is one of the most frightening things I experienced. I will never forget it: I am now 76 years old and it still sends a shiver down my spine.
Eileen Robbins (nee Perry), Launching Place, Victoria, Australia

I was evacuated to Maryport, Cumberland in either June or July 1940 with all of my school friends. I thought we were going on holiday! The second week of our arrival we had a bombing raid. It was a German plane being chased, so he dropped his load making it easier for him to escape. He made a good job of it by flattening the school that I was attending. I was then moved to another school where we could only attend half a day. I was a very lucky child though, because I was housed with the local doctor. It was a very happy three year stay, I saw a rather 'posh life'. Not that my own family life at home was not a happy one, but it did teach me about the finer things in life, which I have never forgotten. In later years I took my four daughters and my husband to visit my foster family and they were fascinated. My daughters keep telling me I should write a book about my adventures! Sarah Huthart (nee Sadie Allen), Monkton Village, South Tyneside, UK

My mother and father, who were 15 at the time, were evacuated from Gibraltar and were brought to London where they spent four years working and then were transferred to Scotland for the final six months of their stay. When they were told to leave Gibraltar, they had to spend four months in Agadir waiting for the convoy of ships that took 17 days to bring them to the UK.
Not a lot is said about these brave women and children the majority of whom lived in the London area taking over from the English people who were evacuated to "safer" places.
Being very proud of being British, there were few complaints at the hardship they endured.
Rose Montiel, Gosport, Hampshire, UK



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