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Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 10 September 2009 15:59 UK
Life as child evacuee in Mortimer
By Emma Midgley
BBC Berkshire

Bob Edwardson
Bob Edwardson learned poaching from the family he lived with during the war

Before the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, 1.5m children were moved to the countryside to protect them from air attacks on Britain.

Bob Edwardson was just eight when he became an evacuee, leaving London to find a safer home in Mortimer.

Bob was grudgingly taken in by a local family, but was constantly reminded that he was there on sufferance.

But he also found love with his childhood sweetheart, Marjorie, whom he met when he was eight-years-old.

Bob was removed from London after the bombing had started, and remembers making a hair-raising journey to safety.

He told BBC Radio Berkshire's Anne Diamond: "They stopped the train between London and Reading because there was bombing, they asked us to file into this field and form a human cross. They assured us that the Luftwaffe wouldn't bomb a field with a cross."

"I got off at Mortimer Station. We all wore labels and a gas mask."

Bob and Marjorie Edwardson
Bob and Marjorie Edwardson have been married for 55 years

Bob remembers being taken into St Mary's School hall at Mortimer, where people came and picked the children they wanted. The girls were the first to be 'adopted' by their new families, and by late night, just he and another boy were left.

He said: "We were taken around the village knocking on doors to see if somebody would take us, and the Reeves family said they would take us for the night, until something was sorted out. However, nobody else ever took us on."

Life with the Reeves was hard in some ways for the London-born Bob, but equipped him with a set of skills he could never have gained in the city.

"The father where I lived did a lot of poaching," said Bob. " I helped with the poaching, and learned all his tricks.

"I even learned how to kill a pig.

Evacuees in Sonning Common
Some evacuees lived at Kennylands Camp School in Sonning Common

"To a certain extent I was happy because I was always occupied, but I never got presents, never had a birthday or Christmas present until I was married to my wife, who is a local girl, when I was 22.

"There was nothing like love. There was no consolation or cuddles when you got beat up, because the local guys didn't like you being there, especially when you chatted up the local girls."

Bob never returned to London after the war. His parents had split up, and neither wanted him back. But during his time away from home, he had met the woman who was to be the love of his life, Marjorie.

"I met my wife at school. She was six and I was eight," said Bob. "She didn't have a lot of time for me, and at one stage she hated me."

However, hate turned to love after Marjorie was asked to chaperone Bob and her best friend when they went on a date, aged 17.

Bob ended up falling for the glamorous chaperone, and the pair will have been married 55 years in December 2009.

Bob's story is just one of many at an exhibition at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) in Redlands Road, Reading during Autumn 2009.

The exhibition examines the impact children evacuated to the countryside had on those communities and the effect their new homes had on them.

My life as a young WWII evacuee
03 Sep 09 |  History
Evacuee remembers war years
01 Sep 09 |  Wales
We were evacuees
15 Apr 09 |  Your Reports
Evacuees relive journey to safety
04 Sep 09 |  England



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