Cecily Tween - evacuated to Brighton
I was five and had only been at school for a few months when World War 2 started on Sunday September 3rd, 1939. We lived in Croydon, which was famous for an airport and which of course would be a prime target for enemy action. Also, the school I attended, Holy Trinity, was directly below a railway line at Selhurst which was a good enough reason to close the school ‘for the duration’, because railway lines were sure to be bombed! It was for these reasons that parents were persuaded to send their children away to safe places. I believe that in those days parents did as those in authority told them, regardless of the heart-ache they must have suffered. They did not know their children’s destination, who was going to look after them, or how they were going to be treated.
On the day my ‘big sister’, who was 9, and I were evacuated, we all met at the school and were taken by train to Hove. My feelings were that of excited confusion, not knowing where our destination would be. On our arrival we were taken to a church hall and given a big brown carrier bag with several tins of emergency rations for the host family. This included Carnation condensed milk, baked beans, tins of fruit, corned beef, some very hard water biscuits and a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. We were then sorted out for dispatch to the homes, which were going to foster us. A ‘very nice lady’ took my sister and me to 39 Rutland Road, Hove, to a Mr. & Mrs. Morris, an elderly couple with a grown up daughter. They had refused to have a boy evacuee, so they were landed with us!
Half day school
As far as I can remember, we were well cared for although I wasn’t allowed second helpings of Rice Crispies because I would ‘come out in spots’. Our education was not of the best quality while we were evacuated. The school had to share premises with another, and so we were taught in the mornings for one week and the afternoons the next week. The other half of the day was spent going on walks or to the local cinema en masse.
One foot in each borough
Every Sunday morning our host, Mr. Morris, took us for a walk along the promenade from Hove to Brighton. The Hove paving stones were a different colour to the Brighton ones, so we would take turns at being ‘at Hove’, or ‘in Brighton’, or one foot in each borough. Although we could walk along the promenade, barbed wire prevented anyone from going on the beach in case any mines had been swept up. Actually, a mine was found on the beach one day, so we felt maybe we weren’t in such a safe place after all!
Giving the invasion signal
Every week, my sister and I would write home; my sister would regularly threaten to run away if our parents didn’t come and take us home again. One day, we were left alone in the house and decided to investigate the ‘treasure’ in the cupboard under the stairs. I found a hand-bell, like the old school bells that were rung to signify the end of playtime. I took the bell to the back gate and rang it as hard as I could. I couldn’t understand why everyone started racing along the road – mothers with babies in their arms, children and older people. It wasn’t until later, when an irate Air Raid Warden came to find the culprit, that I realized I had been giving the signal that there was an enemy invasion. I don’t think Mr. & Mrs. Morris were too sorry when our parents came to take us home at Christmas 1939. We were evacuees for only a few months but they were unforgettable ones, even for a five year old.