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London during the blitz and my evacuation

By Alec George Turner.

I was six and a half years old when the war broke out. I had been a sick child and spent a lot of time in hospital, so I was at a convalescent home in Epsom when it was obvious there would be a war. The home was emptied and I was taken to London by bus and then transferred to a police boat and taken down the Thames to Woolwich, where a police car met me and took me to my house in Wernbrook Street on Plumstead Common. Only a few days later, as I remember it, myself and my two older brothers, Michael and Victor, were taken by our mother Phyllis to the Plumstead train station from where we were to leave for our evacuation. We each had a tag around our necks with name and address, etc., also a carrier bag with emergency rations. No one seemed to know where we were going, but it turned out to be West Maling, in Kent. The train journey took all day, as we had to wait hours at different places to let other trains through. Almost all of the other trains were packed with soldiers and we kids were hanging out of the window and shouting, "Don't forget to kill Hitler!" I remember one soldier who took an eraser from his pocket and shouted, "Don't worry, I have an eraser here so I shall rub him out!"

When we arrived at West Maling we were taken to a school playing field, where we sat on the grass and people came to choose and take their evacuee away with them. Nobody wanted three boys so we were the only ones left after several hours in the field. One of the lady helpers took us home to her place and I can only remember falling asleep in her lap.

Next morning they found a temporary home with a very old widow who kept us for two nights. We brothers were then split up and did not live together again until after the war was ended. I was moved first to a home with a middle-aged couple and then to the gardener's lodge on an estate in West Maling. Thereafter I went to a home in Maidstone so that I could be closer to my brother Michael, who is two and a half years older than me. I was later moved to a home for sick children, boys only, outside of Maidstone. For some reason, I don't know why, I was not allowed to go to school, but was kept at the home and could do more or less whatever I wished during the daytime, while all of the other boys were at school. I did not in any way feel ill! However, I did lose a lot of schooling during that period, and there was no attempt to help or encourage me to do any studies.
I returned to Bexleyheath, as our house in Wernbrook Street had been bombed. My mother, Michael and I slept on the floor in a Morrison shelter. Later our house was rebuilt in Wernbrook Street and we returned and slept in an Anderson shelter in the garden. This continued until the 'doodlebugs' started falling on London and I was again evacuated, this time to Bolton, where I spent two years and never once heard an air raid siren. Part of this time was spent on a goat farm with a family called Holdsworth and then later with two other families. In Bolton I started with my education again, at Castle Hill School.

Contact with my mother was never the same again after the war. My eldest brother Victor did not come home but went to a naval school in Rosyth, Fyfe. I hated the war and everything it brought with it. I have very few good memories, except for a Mr. Threlfall, in Bolton, who took me under his wing and helped me with more or less everything.

Alec George Turner.

'WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar'

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