Alan Marvin

Childhood memories of life on the Home Front and evacuation to Northampton.

A 'strange' experience

Alan was born in Hackney but moved to Greenwich as a child. When the family home was damaged by bombing during the Second World War, Alan’s mother decided that they should return to Hackney. Although it was a disruptive time, Alan did not understand the significance of the war as he was young. One of his earliest memories is of starting at primary school when he was four years old, which Alan recalls as a ‘strange’ experience. Largely, he was unaffected by the everyday pressures which the war resulted in as he ‘just played along with it... we had lots of fun.’


Alan does however recall the food shortages caused by rationing. He frequently felt hungry, despite receiving free milk and a school dinner. Cakes and sweets were luxury items, although fresh apples and pears were available and grown locally. Alan’s mother was a dressmaker and worked from home, but many mothers worked long hours away from the home to support their families. A local school implemented a scheme to provide tea with bread and jam to those children whose mealtimes were affected by the changed domestic routines. Alan attended the school for his tea. Although this did not seem strange to him at the time, on reflection he empathises with the difficulties faced by his mother during the war years.

Evacuation to Northampton

At the end of 1943 Alan’s mother decided that he and his sister should be evacuated. V1 and V2 rockets were introduced and the family were forced to relocate twice after returning to Hackney due to bomb damage. Alan and his sister went to stay at Walton, Northampton with their aunt. It was a very different environment – the village school comprised of two classes, with children divided by age. In Hackney each class had contained approximately twenty-five children. Alan was assigned to the class for younger children, which had only eight students in total.

Country life

Alan’s cousins helped him to adjust to his new rural surroundings. He was not used to being in such close proximity to animals. Fresh fruit and vegetables were available and harvesting was a community event. However, many products were still in short supply. Alan recalls tearing the first pair of long trousers which his mother had saved for and seeing her look of disappointment. He finds it hard to understand today’s culture which advocates the consumerism of disposable goods – ‘at school you were taught to look after were taught to write neatly as rubbers were expensive.’ 

Wartime separation

Alan’s father was in the Army and absent for the majority of his early years. Due to conscription and wartime labour, this was not unusual. Alan does not feel that it had a negative effect on his relationship with his father and once his father returned from service life continued as normal.  Male school teachers provided role models for Alan, and his mother disciplined him. Although his childhood years were difficult, and food was scarce Alan believes that his schooling provided him with stable prospects, despite the disruption caused by war. 

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 30/04/2012.