Evacuees

This article is based largely on e-mail correspondence which took place in February 2012, Paul previously having contacted Janet Piller. It is particularly interesting as it is one of the very few sources concerning evacuees in the Wolfords during the period 1939-1945. Also included after the article are some other short pieces about evacuees.

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Circa 1944 showing, in front from left, Paul Ellis, Molly Stevens and Paul's brother,
Keith. In the rear are Mr & Mrs Stevens and the elderly couple from next door.


TWO EVACUEES IN GREAT WOLFORD
by PAUL ELLIS with Keith Ellis
(From: Moreton History, Spring 2012)

Keith and I were billeted with the Stevens family of Rose Cottage in Great Wolford privately in 1944 after the doodlebugs got too close for comfort near our home in Cheam, Surrey, one of which hit some houses a couple of hundred yards away. Keith was about seven years old and I was nine. My father had some business connection with a solicitor at Moreton in Marsh and must have found the Stevens privately. The Stevens were Grace and Hubert and they had a young daughter, Molly. My mother made her way to Moreton in Marsh to help at the Cotswold Cafe which was owned, so far as I can recall, by Ethel and Edgar Rolph. I visited there a few times and discovered that a couple of German POWs worked there too.

Rose CottageRose Cottage had a partially walled vegetable patch and Mr Stevens took some time to encourage us to grow things. There was only an outside toilet and an outbuilding with a wood stove to supply hot water for bathing in a tin bath - not unusual for the time, of course. I can remember the kitchen and a wood burning stove but I can't remember electricity at all. Keith recalls big hooks on the sitting room wall where they hung sides of bacon to cure.

While we were there Keith and I attended the village school. I think that somehow or other we made a small impression with the teachers who made a couple of complimentary remarks to our mother. I think that it was some reference along the lines that we were a bit more alert to things than the village children. I shouldn't be surprised if that was the case as we'd lived a fairly hectic life back home and had to be aware - air raids, running for the shelter, and so on.

A couple of times I was allowed to ride a tractor with Mr Stevens, a farm worker, and can remember one time that he had a mishap by cutting through some bushes and some birds were killed. He told me that they were 'gleanies', a name I've never heard since. I seem to remember them being pale in colour with dark patches - female pheasants, maybe? The name 'gleanies' was presumably just a local name and describes their habit of gleaning after corn is cut. Which leads me on to a vision of myself trying to help at harvest time - probably just getting in the way. And also being in a yard on the farm when a bull serviced a cow! Very dramatic for a nine year old townie.

Keith also recalls the farmyard opposite Rose Cottage and seeing the sheep going into the thick yellow sheep dip. He also remembers the village post office and the weekly supply of Smiths Crisps, at 3d a packet. We had 6d as pocket money and Keith got in the queue (the crisps were quite an occasion) and saying grandly 'I'll have two', holding out his tanner. The post woman leaned over the counter and said 'One. That's your ration'. You could see her, and all the villagers, thinking 'smug little London git'. But these experiences taught us a lot about a completely different way of life that I've never forgotten.

I also have a memory of a game we played, the name of which I have now no idea. It employed a smallish piece of wood, shaped a bit like a referee's whistle, which was placed on a small area of ground. Then the narrow edge of that piece of wood was smartly hit with a stick, hopefully making it rise up a few feet. At that point you had to try to hit the smaller piece while it was still off the ground. It's a game I've never seen or heard of elsewhere. Keith vaguely recalls that the local kids played it in a field called something like the Umpstalls, and we would say 'we're going up the Umpstalls'.

Just around the corner from Rose Cottage somebody had the job of hairdresser - probably a willing volunteer - and visits were made a few times. I have a blurry vision, too, of a small butcher's shop - perhaps the butcher made a few extra shillings as the barber.

We had a couple of trips to Little Wolford - did there used to be a substitute cinema there? - it rings a bell. And we had a trip to see a miniature model village at Bourton on the Water. Keith remembers Mum taking us there and walking round the village. He saw an apple which had fallen from an apple tree. Mum told us it wasn't ours to touch and we should leave it. Then when we got outside she produced it from her handbag and cut it in two with her nail file.

Keith also remembers the German prisoners of war working in the Cotswold Cafe in Moreton. One night, they were taken back to the prisoner of war camp, and they put him in the back of the car between these two big guys! He recalls the wire fences and the German prisoners of war inside. One night when he and I were staying at the Cafe, we were woken by the sound of a dark column of prisoners marching through the dimly lit street outside, with British soldiers guarding them with rifles slung on their shoulders.

FROM JOYCE KELLAND MEMORIES circa 1939
On the day before the outbreak of war we were put on the train for home, the Baynons were to follow us down by car the next day. The show had to close down early. The station at Portsmouth was milling with evacuees with their gas masks hanging round their necks and their names and addresses a on luggage labels attached to their coat buttonholes. Poor little souls looked quite bewildered. At least we were going home. They had no idea where they were going. When we eventually arrived home it was to discover that we had three evacuees from Birmingham billeted on us, girls aged 4, 8 and 10. Next day war was declared.

DEIRDRE THOMPSON was told that GEORGE YOUNG was an evacuee who settled in Great Wolford after 1945. Aged 24, he married Linda Joyce Payne, aged 19, on 8th April 1950. They had two children, Peter George born 17 April 1954 and Paul born 4 Nov 1962. George died as a result of an accident and was buried 18 July 1986 aged 60. So born 1926 and aged 13 in 1939. He was a parish councillor and contributed much to the village. See Great Wolford Parish Council meetings minutes for his contribution to the village.

From the SCHOOL LOG BOOK on 11th September 1939: "School reopened after five weeks closure. The fifth week was given owing to war being declared on September 1st. 17 children were admitted. These were all privately evacuated from chiefly London and Birmingham".