Below are the memories of Birmingham evacuee, John Hawkins, who was evacuated from Birmingham with his sister Rose, on 1 September 1939. He recalls the scene at his school when he said goodbye to his Mother.
“A teacher, marking names off a clip-board, was busily checking all the children as they arrived at the school gate, and I scampered over to join my Mother and Rosie as frantically, she beckoned me to her side. With a gentle smile, a nearby teacher touched Mom’s arm, and said softly to her ‘You can leave them now, Mother, they’ll be alright me with me’.
Almost instinctively, I gazed quickly into Mom’s face, and I saw her lips begin to slightly tremble with emotion, and a huge lump immediately rose in my throat as she suddenly crouched down, and hugging us both closely to her, kissed us tenderly on the cheek. With her head inclined, so that we couldn’t clearly see her face, she murmured to me in a faltering voice, ‘You see you take good care of her now, I will …’ and turning abruptly away, her sentence unfinished, she shambled quickly off, apparently to join the crowd of watching parents, as her voice trailed away to a choking whisper.
The teacher shepherded us both into the waiting lines and handed us both our labels. Dutifully I slipped the bootlace over Rosie’s head, and then my own, before craning my neck above the mass of children, to try to catch a last comforting glimpse of Mom amongst the crowd who now shouted, smiled and waved encouragingly at us all through the railings, but I couldn’t see her anywhere.
Quite suddenly, screeching noisily, the heavy steel railing gates were swung back and the nearest line of children obediently picked up their cases, shouldered their haversacks and gas masks, and led by their considerable escort of teachers, began to file through them in a long double column. Some parents now ran frantically alongside the long trudging procession, anxiously searching for their own children.”
My new book, published December 2016, contains interviews with over 500 evacuees from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands
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