Margaret Dalby

Recollections of evacuation to Exeter and relocating to Liverpool.

Shelter in the Underground

Margaret was born during the Second World War, at Elephant and Castle during an intense period of heavy bombing. From an early age her father took her to the Underground during raids, to shelter. She recalls being carried above people’s heads so that she would not be crushed.


When Margaret was three years old she was evacuated to Devon with her mother whilst her older siblings travelled to Somerset to stay with cousins. The family was reunited when Margaret’s siblings joined her and their mother at Bradminch (Exeter). Margaret recalls visiting local farms with her brother. On one occasion she was hit by a passing army car whilst feeding a horse and was hospitalised. She remembers being taken outside in her bed during the summer months and watched the aeroplanes overhead dropping leaflets, though she was unsure whether they were British or German craft. Margaret does not have any negative evacuation memories - she recalls being given sweets and Spam by American soldiers, and seeing lorries on the road to Exeter transporting pieces of damaged aircraft which had fallen from the sky.  However, Margaret’s sisters have shared their bad experiences whilst in Somerset.


Margaret’s father died in 1943 two years after the birth of Margaret’s youngest brother in 1941. Her mother decided that they should relocate to Liverpool, her birthplace. As she had six children, assistance was not forthcoming and she had to work long hours, commuting to Southport daily. Margaret was only seven years old. She feels that the war disrupted her education – whilst at Bradminch she attended the local school, before moving to Liverpool where she attended St James Catholic School, which she enjoyed. When she returned to London in 1949, she attended two different schools at Elephant and Castle before enrolling at the Roman Catholic school in Charlton.

Wartime housing shortages

When the family left Liverpool, three of her brothers went into the forces and a sister joined the ATS. Due to wartime housing shortages the family were homeless and stayed initially at a halfway house in Blackheath Village, and another at Ladywell Institution, where conditions were crowded. Margaret has fond memories of staying at an old orphanage in Chalk Farm with her mother, younger brother, married sister, and her child, ‘that was brilliant, I loved it there’. The family moved to Bennet Park, where they stayed for two years before moving to a flat in Plumstead in 1951. Whilst this was period of uncertainty Margaret does not feel that her wartime experiences were negative or harmful. She finds it frustrating when she hears people complaining about hardship, and feels that few young people today have experienced it.

Returning to Bradminch

When Margaret’s own children were young she took them to Bradminch to show them where she had stayed as an evacuee. Although the bungalow and accompanying tea rooms had been made into a Little Chef, she showed them where she had stood waving to the drivers of the trains which travelled past the back of the garden.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 21/05/2012.