We want to hear stories from you or someone you know who was an evacuee during the war. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them below.
War seemed to creep up on our family. I remember in 1938 we were issued with gas masks (from the Hollybush on Penn Road Wolverhampton) and then in 1939 my dad was called up along with all the other Reservists. He joined the RAOC at a barracks near Nottingham then, after a brief leave, he was sent to Aldershot. I think this was the last place before embarkation to France, I can recall the farewell on the Station but I think we made a visit to him whilst he was at Aldershot. From that time 1939, through to 1945 there was just Mum and me and I grew from 8years old to 14-a very significant period of ones life!
There was a time of intense worry for my mum because she did not know whether dad was alive or dead, he was just “Missing”. This was the situation for 2 or 3 months until she had notification from the Red Cross that he was held as a POW in Stalag V111B.That was some relief for us.
For me this time was a time of upheaval, there was an imminent threat of bombing and invasion by the Germans and cities such as Birmingham and Coventry were badly bombed and people killed. Mum decided that I was in some danger and so I got sent to Uncle Fred’s parents who lived in a cottage on the side of Clee Hill. I must have been there for months because I was sent to the village school. I was not very happy; the couple seemed really old-fashioned to me and did not know how to cope with a 9year old boy. Neither did I like the school, probably because the old folks thought I ought to be sent to school with a bottle of milk to drink at playtime, nobody else did this so I felt very foolish and had my leg pulled by the other children.
When I returned home we took in Evacuees from Bermondsey in London, a mother and two girls, I think they stayed about a year, and as the Blitz eased they returned home. Later in the War when the Buzz Bombs were launched against London and the South East we had some more evacuees, this time a mother and daughter.
I tried to find the names of these evacuees from the records held at the Wolverhampton Archives on Snow Hill but was unsuccessful. However the archivist brought me some files held on refugees who had been allotted to the town. When I read through these files I was truly amazed because it revealed an episode of history that even now people do not know about. Apparently before the war in or about 1938 many Jewish parents became increasingly worried about the programs being carried out by the Nazis in Germany and Austria and what their future might hold. Many of the richer families sacrificed all their wealth in order to send their small children to England and the United States. In most cases they were never to see one another again, the parents being murdered in the Death Camps of the Third Reich over the next four years. A handful of these small children came to Wolverhampton and were billeted with friendly families, though what happened to them finally I do not know. Many I have heard were converted to Christianity and brought up as such by their adoptive family; there wasn’t much sympathy in those days for ethnic minorities! Now anyone can read the Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee organised by the local worthies, together with the Accounts held at the Wolverhampton Building Society.
Joyce Morgan arrived in Wolverhampton on 24th October 1940 with her mother and her four brothers and sisters after being evacuated from London. Their house in London was bombed three times during the blitz and when her father came home from the war in 1946 the whole family remained in Wolverhampton where they still live to this day.
One day we were told we were to be evacuated to place in the country so we stayed in London for one more night before the family was put on a train for the super safe haven of Wolverhampton. The train stopped at Tettenhall – Halt and buses took us to New Cross Hospital — an old building like a prison — we did not like it at all. It was only for one night as we should all be in a nice house the next day. We slept in a ward three to a bed and next day were taken to Tettenhall golf club where there were other families waiting to go into private homes. Some Mothers were housed with their children, and some children went to families, but we were a large family and no one wanted us and we had to spend the night in the golf club.
Next day off again to a place called Finchfield. Three houses belonging to Butler’s Brewery which had been empty for some time were given to us — six families in the three houses. All sorts of items were given to us by Tettenhall Council. We settled down in what we thought was our safe place but then were told we were to have a Morrison Shelter, a huge thing that filled half the room. Oh dear, did this mean we were no longer away from the bombing! We were assured we were safe but then we were living next door to the warden’s post.
Memories of the children at school laughing at my strong Cockney accent…… must say we laughed back when we tried to understand the local way of speaking. Then we made friends at school which was at Tettenhall Wood a long walk from Finchfield and I’m happy to say I still have the same pals seventy one years on.
“The Grand Theatre was a luxury to us people that hadn’t got any money, because my late husband was Bevin Boy, money was scarce. I was brought up around the miming area. To go to the theatre was great because you could dress up. It was a night out- you never went scruffy. Other people had evening dresses, I had a light summer dress and I’d dress my little daughter up nice. In those days, for a pound, you could go to the theatre and then go across to the Co-Op and have a meal.”
“The costumes were magnificent and at the end when the Prince married the Princess it was marvellous- all the glitter. Just after the war, with the economy as it was, all this glitter was something to build you up; you’d had a good night, you’d got your husband and daughter and went for a meal after. It was just sheer bliss.”
“I think it was 1943 – Blossom Time or Lilac Time – it was the music of Schubert arranged into a musical performance and there the leading singer – whose name I remember to this day – was called Leo Sheffield. Poor chap, he was past it, he must have been seventy plus and I assume all the better singers were in the Services. Apparently this Leo Sheffield was a known artist – he’d made films and was reputed to be a baritone of quality. I’ve no recollection of this quality: all I recall is this poor old chap doing his best….As Mother was widowed we took in lodgers from time to time and I think in that very performance we took in a man from the chorus: his name was Tom Bowling. He contended he was a descendant of the Tom Bowling, where we all sit and remember him at the last night of the Proms, and he too must have been in his mid-seventies in the chorus, secretly past it…My recollection of the wartime performances is, compared with modern standards, they were second-rate, third-rate, but the audiences were not critical: we were glad to have something live and vibrant in the middle of rather a dark town at that time of our lives.”
“We used to get on the bus at the bottom of Gough Street to Wolverhampton, it was two pence. We’d go to the Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS); it had a little place opposite the town hall. You’d get a small portion of beans on toast for a very small amount of money. We’d do that then we’d stand in the queue in the passages at the side of the theatre for the rep. The Co-Op had got the shops over the road. If we went to matinee performance, we’d go and have a look in. if you could afford it, you’d go in the Victoria hotel. You queued until the theatre opened; you climbed up all those stairs. I think we used to pay one and sixpence. I had a favourite seat…we could only afford the Upper Circle and it was the second row, in the middle on the right, where the man with the lantern slides was. He was advertising lots of local things at the beginning. And of course, the curtain was always lovely to see- it was dancers, I’ve always got a picture of it in my mind… If the theatre was full, which it frequently was, they allowed some people to stand and watch. At the interval if we could afford it, we’d have a drink- right at the back at the top, a tea or coffee. The last bus went at nine, the last train at ten past ten. When you came out of the theatre about a quarter to ten, you chased down the road to the station and the platform was packed and my goodness me it was hard work getting on the train to go to Willenhall.”