My younger brother and I were evacuated to Devon just before war
was declared. When I heard the news on the wireless a couple of
weeks later I burst into tears. I was still feeling very emotional
about leaving my family and I thought I’d never see Dad or anyone
We went to stay with an old retired couple in a council house in Exmouth. Mr and Mrs Gosling. Very posh compared with where we’d come from. It was the first time I’d seen a bath with running water. It was pumped from the kitchen. The panelling was black and white and matched the lino. Back home we only had a tin bath under the table. Mrs Gosling was crippled so she’d put the polish on the floor and we’d tie things to our feet, my brother and I, and slide about til it was nice and shiny. Her name was Thursa, but we always called her Mrs Gosling, even though she broke her heart when we left.
I lost my mother when I was 2, so I liked being part of a family, even though I was worried sick about the ones we’d left behind. There were 8 of us altogether – 6 brothers and a sister and my dad and a maiden aunt who helped my dad bring us up. The Goslings had a grandson my age. And a caravan. We had sweets every week and a one and sixpenny postal order. 6d each for me, my brother and the grandson.
You could swim in the sea at Exmouth. We went to school 1 week in the mornings, the other week in the afternoons. They didn’t really have room for the evacuees – not enough teachers, so we just went on what they called nature walks. Every week I wrote at the end of my letter to Dad “Can we please come home?” and underlined it, til he gave in and 3 years later we went back to London.
I remember doodlebugs. They were really frightening. The lull just before they dropped their load. We used to go down the tube, Elephant and Castle, then just for one night we didn’t go down and it was badly bombed. I was living with my sister then and she just said, ‘I’ve had enough. Don’t feel like going down tonight’ so we didn’t go. It was fate. I knew a lot of people who were killed. They’re still down there.
On VE day my sister grabbed me and said “We’re going over to the West End.” We only had to walk across Westminster Bridge to get there. We went to Buckingham Palace and saw Churchill and the Royal family up on the balcony – the King and Queen and the two young princesses. Everybody went mad, dancing, doing the conga and singing. What a time we had.