Operation Pied Piper
To mark the 80 year anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War on 3rd September, local wartime veteran Barry Gooders recreated his journey as a child evacuee from London to Brighton in 1939. He retraced his steps to recreate the last leg of his emotional journey from Thornton Heath in South London, to Brighton station. Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Barry, now 87, arrived from London with his younger brother, Gerald, at Brighton. They were just two of the 3.5 million children evacuated to safety as part of Britain’s ‘Operation Pied Piper.’
Barry recalls his personal journey to Brighton:
“I was 7, and my brother Gerald was 5 when war was declared. We lived in Thornton Heath, and we arrived at the school with our parents to join all of the children who were going to be evacuated. When we arrived at the station we were in a state of high excitement because of going on a train journey with our friends. At Brighton station, we were ushered on to double-decker green buses which of course we had never seen before, and off we went on what seemed like quite a long journey. They called the children from the bus, introduced them to the person in the house and we were just left there.”
Barry’s accompanying group, veterans, children and their guests were received by a welcoming committee; reminiscent of those who met the original evacuees at Brighton station, 80 years ago. The party was then escorted onto a present-day bus, and travelled to Downs Junior School where they were received by Peter Field, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex. The bus was generously provided by Brighton & Hove Buses, who originally transported the children to their new Brighton homes and host families in 1939.
It is at Downs Junior School that Barry has been volunteering for the past three years; sharing his wartime stories and inspiring over 7,500 adults and children as part of the ‘Take Shelter’ school and community events. The project officially opened to the public in 2016 with the aim of capturing and sharing wartime memories and skills with the local community. At the heart of the project is the Second World War air-raid shelter underneath Downs Junior School, which is the only fully restored school air raid shelter and public interactive museum in the UK.