Evacuation

Memories of Brian Scott

I was born in 1931 in Norton Street, Winson Green so when WW2 broke out in 1939 I was 8 years old and we lived in Hartley Road, Kingstanding.

In common with two and a half million other families, we had an Anderson shelter at the bottom of our garden in anticipation of the expected Luftwaffe air raids.  At first, when the sirens sounded my parents woke me and took me down the garden to sit in the shelter until the “all clear” sounded.  As the raids became more frequent, practically every night, we children went straight into the shelter, supposedly to sleep while our parents stayed in the house unless and until the bombing got nearer .  We children would then come up to the entrance of our shelters and watch the planes and the gunfire, listening to all the noises.  We soon learned to recognise the different engine sounds of bombers and fighters, British and German, and we would hear the shrapnel from the anti-aircraft guns falling like rain on the house roofs.

It was an exciting time for us – we didn’t appreciate the gravity of all that was going on.

As most people are aware, Birmingham gets its water supply from reservoirs in the Elan Valley in Central Wales.  It travels along a pipeline from reservoir to city and one night, a stray bomb hit a section of the pipe, causing the water to become contaminated and unfit for drinking unless it was first boiled.  This became a real concern as children would still get water straight from the taps so it was decided that there should be evacuation of school children to a safer water area.

I attended Peckham Road Junior School and a group of us, supervised by two teachers, Miss Aslin and (I think) Miss Stimson and Miss Aslin’s mother were directed to go to Alfreton in Derbyshire.  We were taken by bus to Castle Bromwich railway station, then by train to Alfreton and then by a further bus to a small industrial village called Ironville.

Peckham Road School Evacuees, 1941. Source Kingstanding Library

We travelled very light – just the clothes we wore, our gas masks, a change of underwear and a luggage label showing our names, ages and school.

We were assembled in the school hall and people began coming in, looking at us and choosing which of us they wanted to foster.

I was chosen by a couple, several years older than my own parents, Mr and Mrs Howes.  They had no children but had a permanent paying guest, a Church Army sister named Gertrude Emily Thornton.

Their house was a tiny cottage that had once been part of a pottery and was right alongside the Erewash canal, then a busy, working canal.

I was offered supper, something we never had at home so I settled for a hot drink and was taken to my bedroom, quite small but adequate and comfortable.  I had  a little homesickness weep – I had never been parted from my parents before – and then went to sleep, tired out after a very long, eventful day.

The following day I was given some money and told to go and find Annie Bailey’s shop to see if she had any “tuffies”, which I interpreted as toffees.  I found out that all sweets were called tuffies so that was the first dialect word I learned; however I soon learned others like ‘appen, ayup and meduck to name but three !

My parents were not church-goers so going to morning service with Mrs Howes was another new experience for me.  I slotted into church attendance quite easily and soon became a member of the choir and used to attend at least twice and sometimes three times each week.  Sister Thornton had a ministry at a small, corrugated iron sheeted chapel in a neighbouring hamlet near the village of Selston.  This was reached via a walk along the canal tow path and then across several fields. She did the whole service herself – played the harmonium for the hymns, read the lesson, preached the sermon, led the prayers and generally ministered to a small congregation.  I think her favourite hymn was “I will make you fishers of men” because every time I visited the chapel it was sung.  She was a bit of a tartar – we used to have regular battles on Sunday evenings when the radio programme “The Happydrome” was broadcast.  She considered it unsuitable listening for the Sabbath and I absolutely loved it.  Fortunately I usually had the verbal support of Uncle Charlie and Aunty Sue (as I now called Mr and Mrs Howes) but she was also very kind to me.  She was an enthusiastic market shopper and every Saturday she would take me to one of the many nearby markets, Ilkeston, Ripley, Heanor, Belper, Long Eaton, Alfreton and many others.

We evacuees were taught alongside the local children in their classrooms – some lessons led by our teachers and some by theirs.  The headmaster was Mr. Hardwick and two girls of our party were billeted with him and his wife.  I only learned recently that the Hardwicks were newlyweds at the time and were often disturbed by the two girls as they tried to have a kiss and a cuddle.

Uncle Charlie had many relatives in the village.  His mother and father were still living but mostly bed ridden.  His dad was quite a character.  He used to have a large china mug filled with beer.  He would spoon into it several spoonfuls of sugar and then stir it with a red hot poker.  He would encourage me to have a drink of it, which, of course, I did.  Charlie had a sister, Daisy, who had several daughters, one of whom, Lily, lived to almost 100 years old and died in December 2010 .

Ironville was a product of the Industrial Revolution.  It was built by the Butterley Company to house worker s in their iron foundries and their families.  Of course, there were no health and safety issues in those days and the foundry was a ready made playground for us children.  We loved to go and stand beside the men operating the machinery – the puddlers skimming the impurities off the surface of the vats of white hot molten iron, pouring it into the “pigs” (hence – pig iron) dodging the white and red hot sparks flying everywhere.  Then there were the rolling mills reducing the thickness and increasing the length of the iron rods with every pass.  It was a child’s paradise.

I’ve already mentioned the canal.  It ran in three sides of a square around the village.  There were several lock gates and we children loved to operate them for the boat people and they would let us jump onto the boats, cruise around the village and get off again at the top end which was only about 300 yards from where we started.  They were tough people living a tough life.  Several families lost a child by drowning during the time we were there.

Our parents endeavoured to visit us once a month although in the winter months this was not always possible.  Someone used to organise a coach and they would arrive at around lunch time and would have to start back about two or three hours later.  Bear in mind that this was a time of strict food rationing and so our mothers used to save up all the little luxuries they could to bring to us when they visited.  Some children (or possibly parents) couldn’t adapt to being apart and went home earlier than the rest of us.

While living at Ironville we reached the age when we sat the Grammar Schools Entrance Examination, the 11+.  Lines of communication were not very sophisticated in those days – no-one had phones and news had to be sent by letter.  Several of my classmates had heard from their parents that they had passed (or not).  The aforementioned headmaster, Mr Hardwick, seemed to delight in castigating me for not having studied hard enough – I obviously had failed.  Imagine my surprise and delight when my next letter from home said how pleased my parents were that I had passed.

The decision then had to be made as to whether we enrolled for a local school or returned to Birmingham.  One of the available local schools was Swanwick High School, a very good school.  The only problem was that if our parents agreed to us entering that school, they had to agree to us staying there for the whole of our educational careers.  My parents decided I should return home and attend Central Grammar School, Birmingham.

I was very sad at the thought of having to leave my second family in Ironville.  I have nothing but happy, loving thoughts of the three years I spent there and my time there has given me a real love of Derbyshire – I return there as frequently as I can.

Recollections from Ripley

Memories of Brian Reynolds

I have in Ripley all my life and am pushing 75. My mother took two evacuees during the war, I was of course just a toddler then. I can just about remember them being around. In fact I have on occasions tried to find out more about them, where they came from and what happened to them in  later life. My dad was in the forces then and I wondered if they were taken in just for the extra cash? They didn’t stay too long though, because of a nasty accident to myself. It seems that the children, I don’t know if they were boys or girls, took me upstairs to play while my mother  did the ironing. Well it seems that I finished falling through the bedroom window and falling onto the concrete pavers. Not recommended for someone proberbly not much more than three maybe younger. My life was in danger for a long while, having sustained a fractured skull. The outcome of this terrible accident was that the evacuees were packed off from where they came. As my mother has passed I can’t get to know her side of the story. Sorry I can’t  give more information, best wishes Brian Reynolds.

Recollections of Averil Hall

I was born in Ripley but grew up on Pentrich Road, Swanwick until 1953. My parents bought the newspaper each week.
I joined Swanwick Junior Girls’ and Infants’ School in 1940 aged 5 years. Boys were in the Infants’ class until they were 7/8 when they moved to the Junior Boys’ School at the top of Pentrich Road not far from our house. The Headteacher of my school was Mrs Morgan while the assistants were Mrs Walker – the wife of the Boys’ school headmaster – who taught the tinies, and Mrs Atkinson who taught the older girls.

I remember how the war affected the area – the damaged cross on St. Andrew’s Church (as the German planes jettisoned bombs in order to make their escape quicker), the church’s stained – glass windows being replaced by plain glass ones until after the war, and the building of an air raid shelter at the end of the Grammar School drive so that the young children from our school opposite could shelter there during raids. My mother decided that I should run home when the siren sounded but I can recall not having time to go, so sitting under the school tables until the All Clear sound rang out. I can recall ‘bombers’ in the sky as I ran, searchlights across the village, sleeping on a bed – chair under the stairs and asking if the sweep had been when the living room chimney deposited its soot all over the floor when a bomb was dropped on New Street, a few yards away. A young mum gave birth on New Street as the bomb dropped – the shock of it? Next morning a man came to check our window frames and for any house damage.

Evacuees arrived in school from Birmingham, together with their teacher, Miss Washington. Maybe there was a male teacher and boys who joined the Boys’ School too. The Smith family opposite our house took in a girl named Margaret Wint and I remember a Jean Herring – a red head. There were many more in our small class / form and some made a life for themselves in the area after the war. Perhaps they had no family to return to in Birmingham.

Barrage balloons by the Rolls Royce factory in Derby, no street lights, blackout curtains on frames at the windows, ration books and my father, in a reserved occupation for Butterley Company (Ironworks) near Ripley, taking munitions by lorry all over the UK, ‘going through traffic lights on red’ as they were so taped over as to be invisible in the blackout. He received a summons!

I have many memories of those war years.

(Mrs) Averil Dawn Hall née Beastall born 1935, now living in Warwickshire.

Memories of Les Wilson

My mother and father took an evacuee into there home, at that time they lived at number 5 allissa avenue, derby road, Ripley, Derbys, there names where Samuel and Jesse Wilson, the evacuees name was Sylvia and her mothers name was Ivy and they lived at 17 wandsworth road, Kingstanding,
I cannot remember her fathers name or there surname,
Both families remained firm friends after the war and even went on holiday together, sadly after Ivy died contact was lost with Sylvia although I remember her having a son who would now be around 50 years old, hope this helps with your quest.
Les Wilson.
Recollections of Caroline
My mother is 90 and lived in Bowler Street in Marehay, Ripley. She remembers that in about February 1941 three evacuees came from Kingshill after the bombing there contaminated the water supply. She said that a little girl l(the youngest of the three) lived with her family and the girl’s elder sister lived with a family called Hunt in Brook Lane. She couldn’t remember the girl’s name but said that it was something like Olive Cooper (she is very unsure). The family came at weekends to visit the girls and there was a younger brother who had stayed at home, their father was possibly a bus driver.
There was also another boy quartered locally but she doesn’t remember any other details.
One day she was taking the little girl to visit one of our relations in Denby and the air raid siren went off (or a plane flew over), the little girl ran and hid in a bush and my mother recalls that she was a tiny scared scrap of a thing.  After the war the girl kept in contact with my grandmother and I believe that she went to live in London.
Recollections of Joan Stratham

Swanwick J&I school children and evacuees 1941. Source Joan Sterland

Back row, teacher, evacuee, Dorithy Whitmore, Joyce Bowen, Joan Sterland, Reeny Ducker , Doreen Banister, Evacuee A, Teacher Mrs Morgan

Front Row, Evacuee billited on the Delves, June Hogg, Evacueee, Rosemary Gledhill(Hickton Rd), Evacuee, Margaret Walters (New Street)

Couple at front are sisters to evaucee A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responses

  1. I loved reading this blog. I have been privileged throughout my life to hearing these stories from my dad and I have urged him for many years to record his memories. I am thrilled to see he has finally done it! These stories form the fabric of our life today and we should all be ensuring that the legacy of our memories are written down and preserved for future generations.

  2. hi, great photo! My mom and her two sisters are in this picture and are thrilled to see it.


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