By Marjorie Tether
|A policeman helps young evacuees prepare to leave London for their temporary homes|
Part of the Civilian Evacuation Scheme in Britain during the Second World War
Images from Wikimedia Commons (image not part of original feature)
Taking in evacuees
We came to Brookmans Park in September 1938 as a newly married couple, having designed and built our house ourselves in Bradmore Way, which was an unmade road and full of pot holes.
When the 1939 war began, we were approached by a rather officious lady who told us to take evacuees from London. We were not told what sex, age or religion.
Two brothers, John and Kevin, aged 4 and 6 years old, duly arrived from Chelsea. They had only the clothes they stood up in, which were green siren suits, which they had unfortunately wetted. They had only one pair of pyjamas each.
Their heads were full of lice, which I had to try and cleanse, not a pleasant job, which had to be done as my husband had to go to the city to work and did not want to have infested hair. During a lull in the bombing in London, they went home for a few days, but when they returned, their hair was full of lice again.
We had very little furniture and had to borrow two camp beds and bed linen. When there was an air raid, we made a bed up under the stairs for them and we slept in the passage next to them.
The boys went to school at Moffats House School, which had originally been a boarding school for boys who were evacuated to Devon. The house was divided, one half for the Catholics from Chelsea and the other half for a council school in Islington.
John and Kevin came home each day for dinner. Their socks were soaking wet, as childlike they walked in all the puddles in the unmade road. I had to try and dry their socks quickly to send them back to school in the afternoon.
I received 8/- (40p) per week for each child. This was hard going for us as my husband, who was a financial journalist for the Financial News (as it was then), was on short time and only got paid for the days he worked, as the newspapers were reduced. The parents of the boys were better off than we were really. They had all their six children evacuated. Their father was in the army and their mother went into munitions.
They were lovely little boys. I gave them a birthday party and they had their school friends here. Food was rationed, but we coped.
Eventually, the boys caught a skin disease called 'scabies'. I took them to the doctor, I had to put lotion all over their bodies after I bathed them each night. It did not clear up, so they had to go to a large house in Old Welwyn, which was used as a hospital for evacuees. I visited them there.
By this time in 1941, I had had the boys two years. My husband was then called up. I decided I could not have the children return to me after their spell in hospital, as I did not think I could cope with them without my husband, so I said goodbye to them at Old Welwyn.
Before they went into hospital, my husband and I decided to take a week's holiday before his call-up. I had almost to beg the authorities to take the children while we went away, they reluctantly agreed to do so.
Kevin, the younger boy, came to visit me on his bicycle after the war, which was very nice of him. I hardly recognised him. He was six feet tall. I couldn't believe that I used to carry him up to bed when he was four years old.
After my husband was called up in 1941, I took a job as a typist for an American firm, Norton Grinding Wheel, in Welwyn Garden City where I stayed until 1942 when I started my family.
So, I served my "mothering" apprenticeship for my two sons, born in 1942 and 1946 respectively.