Author of The Christmas Village and Return to Canterbury

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Monday, April 6, 2015

E is for Evacuation

On September 4, 1939, my mother was one of almost three million English children who evacuated with their schools from cities to the countryside of England and Wales.  The evacuation was part of a plan by Winston Churchill to move English schoolchildren to safety if England entered the war against Germany. On September 3rd, Germany invaded Poland, England entered the war and the evacuation plan was implemented.

The following is an excerpt from an essay my mother wrote when she was 15, describing those events:

EVACUATION by Gwendolyn A. Simm

I awoke early on the morning of September 4, 1939, to the realization that today I was to set out on a new adventure in life. I was to be evacuated to a place I had never seen before in my life; it was Anglesey, Wales. I was to live with people I had not even set eyes on before.

At 10:30 a.m. on that same morning, three hundred other children and I were assembled on the platform of Lime Street Station, waiting for our train to arrive. Among the many crowds of people waiting there, I noticed little children with luggage labels tied to their coats as identification cards, clinging closely to their mothers’ skirts. Others were happily awaiting their first train ride or perhaps their first journey away from the smoky towns. The whistle blew! Slowly the heavily laden train steamed out of the station – midst many wavings of handkerchieves and good-byes.

We passed through miles upon miles of smoky towns: Liverpool, Birkenhead, and Chester, then small towns and villages, and finally we reached green fields and meadows.

As it was still September and summer was not yet over, the sun was with us too, and looked resplendent, shining on the winding brooks which we passed on our way.

The latter part of our journey consisted of a train ride around the feet of many mountains, in between which lay a stretch of water known as the Minai Straits. It was on the edge of this Strait that I was to make my future home. I always remember stopping at a very small Welsh junction the name of which caused us much laughter, for there were thirty-nine letters in the name. It was Llanfairpwlgwyngil-go-gery-tyn-silo-so-go-goch.

We arrived at our destination, which was a town called Beaumaris, late in the afternoon, and were taken to sit on the waterfront while some were taken to their new homes – billets, as they are termed. Being fortunate, I was in one of the first groups to go. An old-fashioned house right on the waterfront, in which an old lady and her maid lived, was to be my new home.

The Liverpool Lime Street Station - present day

View across the Menai Strait from Beaumaris, Wales


Annalisa Crawford said...

Oh Melissa, I'm so sorry I haven't stopped by yet - I completely overlooked you were taking part!

The evacuation process must have been so scary and yet so exciting all at once - and you never knew what kind of household would be receiving you.

I'll definitely be back, Melissa, I promise :-)

Lisa Mandina said...

Wow, what great history to share! To know your mother survived that. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. If you have time you should stop by and check out my E post.

Elodie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story with us! This must have been so scary for us, so exciting for others and knowing your mom went through!

Lauren Greene said...

What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing!

Arlee Bird said...

Apparently the process was handled fairly well to be considered a new adventure. What a time!

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Kate Larkindale said...

What a great story! My mother-in-law was evacuated during the war too, ut she doesn't talk about it much.

Faye North said...

Thank you for sharing your mother's essay with us.. Her experience was so well told.

Faye at Destination: Fiction

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Hi Annalisa - I haven't done it in a few years - I will stop by your place soon. We lost internet for several days so I'm behind in every regard!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Thank you Lisa. We lost internet for a few days but I promise to visit soon.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I can't even imagine what it was like for her!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Thanks Lauren

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Yes, they tried to make it seem like an outing with no sad goodbyes - an outing that for some children ending lasting the entire length of the war!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Thanks Kate - my mother didn't talk about it much either!

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Hi Faye - thanks so much