I am nearly 78 now but can recall very vividly the first time I was evacuated at the age of eighteen months to Bourton-on-the-Water. They had a lovely dog called Gypsy who lived in the cottage where I stayed for a while with my mother and a dear old couple. Their dog became my constant companion during our stay there.

The cottage was magical, it opened up on to fields of cows which was enchanting for us . It also sported an aviary, the pride and joy of the couple who looked after us, and I so enjoyed going to see the birds being fed. It’s strange how one can remember things from so far back in time but can’t remember where one’s mobile was left a few minutes ago in 2016.

After returning from Bourton we lived in Lewisham and I went to St. Mary’s school which was wonderful. We were taught so much in those days and used to enjoy Maypole dancing in the playground. A couple of years on my little brother was born and the war was in full flight. We slept in an Anderson shelter at night and I used to get into trouble when I looked outside to see all the planes going over and all the searchlights. We used to go back into the house during the day to find out how much damage had been done during the night bombing to the houses in our street and my parents were so distressed when neighbours were killed.

My father was too old to be called up and so he joined the Ladywell Fire Service and was always in the thick of the bombing. One day I remember my Grandmother turning up at our house requesting that I go and have meal with her at her home in Ladywell. This was a joy for me as I adored her homemade stews, they were so tasty . So off we went for the afternoon.
When our meal had finished we heard the siren go and so dived into the indoor Morrison Shelter and we could hear the flying bomb overhead. Then it suddenly stopped there was a huge explosion it seemed as though the whole house had caved in on us. Grandma and I were trapped in the shelter under the rubble unable to see through all the smoke and dust etc.

After a short while we heard voices and to my joy, my father was there calling out to grandma not realising that she had collected me from home, and so it came to a great surprise to him finding me buried there with her. When he broke through I clung to my dad begging him to take me away from all the bombing. This he did and so my second evacuation was to begin.

Mother, baby Michael and I boarded a steam train with gas masks etc for the long journey up to Fleetwood in Lancs. On arrival we were taken to a village hall for refreshments and then boarded a coach which toured the streets knocking on doors and asking the locals if they could take in refugees. By the end of the day the coach was empty, except for us, as non-one wanted to take in a mother with a tiny baby and little girl. We spent that evening on camp beds in the Church hall, very tired and frightened at being so far away from home. Mother popped out to post a letter to my father to relate our situation and a lady came out of her house and asked if mother was a refugee. Mum explained our plight and Mrs Walsh and our her husband Jack kindly gave us a home for the duration of the war. They had a 14 year old daughter who was very kind to me so life wasn’t too bad. I did get bullied a lot because I was from the South and do remember the very harsh weather up there. I am terrified of enclosed spaces and now hate the cold but still the wartime has left so many of us stronger to cope with life.

Rita White

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