EVACUATION 1 – EVACUATION 2 – ADDENDUM
Contributed by Valerie Dissington (nee Jones), Edenbridge, Kent.
I spent most of the second world war in London until my uncle, a musician in the Coldstream Guards’ band was killed on 18th June 1944, when the Guards Chapel was destroyed by a V1 rocket. Consequently my mother decided that my sister and I should be evacuated as soon as possible.
I don’t know the exact date but it was probably during July 1944 that we were packed off to Paddington station where we joined a train full of other evacuee children. My sister was 12 years of age and I was 8. I don’t think I realised that I was being separated from my mother and father for some time, as I quite enjoyed the journey, although my sister was very apprehensive, no doubt due to the the added responsibility of having been told to look after me.
My most vivid memory of the journey was seeing the sea when the train came through Dawlish. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was just a miraculous sight to me, having never seen the sea before. Eventually we arrivied by bus in Marldon village, near Paignton, Devon. With a number of other children we were taken to the village hall where many village people were waiting to take the children allocated to them. As the numbers began to diminish my sister became very upset and eventually we were the only two children left. It was clear that the people who were supposed to take us, were not going to turn up.
The billeting officer, was a Mr Moore who lived at Occombe House, and one of those helping him that day was Miss Rosalind Everard, who lived with her parents at Burrow Down, in Preston Down Road. It was decided that Miss Everard would take us temporarily to her home until suitable accommodation could be found for us. We were amazed when we were driven up to the house it was so big, and I was terrified when shown one of the family’s ponies tethered on the lawn in front of the drive. We were told to call Miss Everard, Tawny (presumably she had at some time been a Tawyn Owl in the Girl Guide movement), and she transferred us to the care of the only two remaining staff at the house, a Mr & Mrs Scott, who lived in a staff cottage to the right of the house. We were to share a bedroom but we also had our own sitting room and I imagine that these rooms were staff quarters too. The family at the house were Mr & Mrs Everard, Miss Everard and a Miss White, an elderly lady, who had been an employee of some sort. Each member of the family had their own pet dog, a black Scotch Terrier, a Peckinese and a brown and white Cocker Spaniel. There were two ponies and Miss Everard had a hunter, called Judy. I felt I was in heaven when I got to know the animals, especially the ponies of whom I soon became fond. We were allowed in the big house at times and were able to read some of the wonderful books which belonged to the grandchildren of the family. There were also some magnificent jigsaw puzzles of the wild animals of the world. The garden was wonderful too, especially the fruit cages, containing raspberries, red and black currents, the like of which we had never seen in London.
On one occasion we walked down to the beach at Paignton with some other evacuees. There was still barbed wire so we walked on to Goodrington and I had my first experience of the sand and sea. I was sent to the village school when term began after the summer holidays and my sister went to a secondary school in Paignton. The school was about a mile away and sometimes the postman would give us a lift in his van, my sister getting the bus at Marldon Cross to go to Paignton. As the weather was fine we had our school dinners on trestle tables in the playground, and I remember one of the dinner ladies, with a broad Devon accent, asking me if I would like more “tetties”, and I didn’t know what she meant. Tawny was very kind to us, she bought us dungarees to wear when we were playing and helping with the ponies etc. I can recall being very upset at having to give these back when we moved on.
Our parents came down to visit and my father wanted to mend our shoes (something he had always done). He asked Mr Everard if he by chance had a last (the thing on which the shoes were put enabling the new sole or heel to be fitted). Mr Everard did not know what my father meant but opened his garage door, revealing not only a big car but on the neatly stacked shelves “every tool one could need”, so my father said. Mr Everard watched in wonder as Dad mended our shoes and thought he was very clever. We were very proud.
Obviously the billeting officer was trying to find some other place for us to go as apparently it was not convenient for the Everards to keep us there. After about three months we were moved to a house at Marldon Cross, owned by an elderly couple, but this too was only a temporary measure, and after about two or three weeks we were again moved. Our third billet was in Westerland, the house being called “Farthing Cross”. The family here was a Mrs. Hamilton-Jenkins and her sister and brother Olwen and Hugh . Hugh was a school teacher and Olwen, I think, an artist. But the interesting thing for us was being told that their late father was the author W W Jacobs, one of whose books was The Monkey’s paw. This house too was full of books, and to my joy many of them were stories about girls and their ponies.
Mrs Jenkins had two daughters, Jennifer and Bronwen, both of whom came home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays. They too had ponies and the grounds were, it seemed, filled with chickens and bantams. They also had goats, Prue and Anna. They were fearful nannies and always butting us whenever the opportunity arose.
I remember the Christmas we spent there as one of the happiest of my childhood. There seemed to be plenty of everything, and I can still remember the taste of the wonderful cakes Mrs. Jenkins cooked. Opening our stockings on Christmas day we not only had gifts sent by our parents, but presents from the Jenkins family. I had a book called “How to Draw Horses” and a copy of “The Rose and the Ring” from Olwen and Hugh, books which only disappeared after my own children were adults.
Unfortunately just after Christmas our happy time in Marldon was at an end. Mrs. Jenkins had to return to Cornwall to look after family there so once again we were in Mr Moore’s car being transported; this time to Harbertonford. Our lodging there was in an hostel with about 15 other children and we had an unpleasant time there until the war ended in May and we returned to London.