Monthly Archives: February 2011

Your Stories

We want to hear stories from you or someone you know who was an evacuee during the war. Email them to and we’ll add them below.

My mother Jean Bentley, nee Kemsley, remembers the evacuee who came to live on their farm outside Maidstone, Kent in the early part of the War. He was David Green of “90 Green Street, Chislehurst, Kent” and whenever they, or any of my mother’s friends asked his name, he always gave  his name and full  address! Unfortunately my mother has not kept up contact with David.

I have a photo of my mother’s birthday on June 11th 1940, it would have been her 11th. She is seated on her pony, surrounded by her Maidsone friends. The shepherd Buster is holding her pony’s reins. In addition to her friends, the picture also shows her friend Pat Hobbs, my godmother Margaret Fullager (now in Melbourne, Australia) and my uncle Trevor Kemsley (who still farms part of the original farm) . The gardener’s children Enid and Joyce are there and David too, who looks about 8.

My mother said that they all had great fun playing together, but that David was sent somewhere else when the Blitz began, as my grandmother thought that Maidstone would be caught in any bombing raids and not a safe place for an evacuee.

Alison Arlington tells us about her mother’s memories of a visiting evacuee in 1940.

“I was born just weeks before the war broke out in 1939 and was living in London,” he recalls. “In 1941 it was decided that my mother, my brother and I would all go to live in Dorset. To begin with, we were staying in a pub run by a friend of my mother’s, but then a local farmer offered us the use of an abandoned cottage on his land. It was in the middle of nowhere, about a mile from the nearest road, and it had no gas, no electricity and no running water – we had to pull water up from a well and light a fire in the range. So we lived there until 1944 and I thought it was wonderful. It was an adventure for us, although I am not so sure about my mother. The farmer did actually offer her a rifle to use for her protection but she said ‘with two small boys in the house?’ She knew better. We came back to London in 1944 because we thought the war was won. But that was the time of the flying bombs or V bombs. I remember being about five and learning that I had to lie flat on the pavement if I heard the drone of the bombs. I remember that we had a shelter in our house which was a sort of steel construction about six foot by two foot which was in the living room and, as soon as we heard the sirens, we all had to get in there. I thought it was wonderful all snuggled up in there with everyone. My mother said I used to say that I hoped the sirens would go off so we could go into the shelter and then come out and have a cup of cocoa!”

Veteran actor Oliver Ford Davies, aged 72, played the title role in the original production of Goodnight Mister Tom.

During the Second World War thousands of children were evacuated from inner city and semi industrial areas that were likely to be bombed. They were moved out to more rural locations where, it I was hoped, they would be more safe.

The greatest number of children to find themselves on the move came from the big cities London, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham and a small percentage of them found themselves heading to South Staffordshire.

Most of those allocated to Wombourne and the immediate area came from London, arriving by train and finding themselves somewhat bewildered by their new surroundings. Many had never seen a cow nor a field of corn before and some were overwhelmed by the distinctive “country smells” that they encountered for the first time.

One of those evacuated from North London was Fred Machin whose memories are recorded in the book ” Travelling Light”. He was just 12 when he was sent to Wombourne and he vividly recounts how, when he boarded the train (along with his two sisters) he was told that he was going to the seaside. His disappointment was immense when he found out how far from the sea he was to be (he had never been to the coast) and always referred to the village as ” Womboume-onSea”. Indeed many more of the evacuees followed suit and, for a while at least, even some of the locals starting using the name!

From the Village Voice, Wombourne-on-Sea