Experiences of Evacuation

Photo:A group of evacuated children

A group of evacuated children

Grace Trueman

Since the Government evacuation scheme in addition to the private evacuation of the war came to include millions of children, there could never be a single narrative of the evacuation. The situations the children left behind and those they encountered when they arrived in the country provided for a wide range of possibilities and experiences. While many children shared an overall pleasant experience as evacuees, evacuation could often place the children in diverse and dissimilar situations to previous familiar grounds. Evacuated from a religious family in Margate to a mining community in Wales, Doreen Foreman came to spend many of her coming Sundays and Christmases during the war in the nearby pub rather than in church.

Varied Experiences

Numerous memories of evacuation include the generosity and warmth of the families the evacuated children billeted with.

‘When it came to Christmas time we joined the rest of the family for Christmas dinner. Further proof of the great generosity of the Simmons family, we were treated as part of them and met all the in laws and their children.’ Ronald Challis, evacuated to Felcourt in 1939

Billeted with Mr and Mrs Patterson in Ilfracombe  North Devon, Raymond Weeks experienced his time evacuated in positive terms and recalls: “we were the luckiest kids around - they were lovely people”. 

‘The last off the coach and allocated the worst billet, flea and bug ridden with a man and wife who later became residents in a Mental Institution'

Other children were met with less kindness and thus experienced evacuation as an unhappy period. Allocated an unsuitable billet, Jack Hawker, soon suffered the consequences.

'The last off the coach and allocated the worst billet, flea and bug ridden with a man and wife who later became residents in a Mental Institution...I was not fed and once my paper carrier of rations ran out (cornflakes, biscuits and corned beef from what I remember) I was left to my own devices and lived on scrumped apples, Tizer and crisps from the local pub for the next month before being rescued from the situation.’ Jack Hawker

Complex Account

The various experiences of evacuation make up a complex account of the wartime exodus. Whether positive or negative, the experience of evacuation has come to remain significant to many of those who took part.  

Since joining the Evacuees Reunion Association (ERA) I have found such a relief that I am not the only one to feel as I do, that all of us to a greater or lesser extent were affected for life by our experience. It is good to talk about it now, to bring out into the open, thoughts and emotions that have remained hidden for nearly 50 years. Audrey Brockman

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 19/11/2011.
Comments about this page

It is fascinating to read so many stories from the war. The wide range of experiences show the incredible impact the war had on so many families and the fact that each memory is such a personal story makes the information all the more interesting.

By Craig Adamson
On 07/05/2012