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Mikes Memoirs April 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — panthergirl @ 11:40 pm
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Thinking about war always makes me think of my father. He was eight when the second world war was on. He lived on the island of Guernsey which was occupied by Germany. It was decided that all the children on the island would be evacuated to England where they would be put with foster families for the course of the war. Of course England turned out to be a very grim place to be during the war anyway. He has written a few memories of the war down and this is his memory of the evacuation.

I still remember vividly September 3rd, 1939. We were sitting in the big room, my mother and father, myself and a couple of friends. We heard on the radio, not such a good radio in those days, Neville Chamberlain, who said that Hitler had not given an undertaking to pull his ships out of Poland and consequently we were at war with Germany. The adults were very very serious and I felt the gravity of the situation. We didn’t know then the nasty things that lay ahead of us.

We went back to Guernsey and my Dad started working again as normal. The island functioned more or less normally until around about April, 1940, when we could hear the guns in France as the german troops advanced. The french refugees started arriving and settling down by the harbour. They were a pathetic lot really with just a few belongings on wheelbarrows and things like that. It was a very miserable time for them. There was tension on the island. My mother was hoarding food, tinned food.

The tension was now mounting and in May 1940 children were evacuated. I think just about all the island children went. Our parents had three hours to get us ready. We all walked down to the harbour one day and we stood there from early in the morning in the hot sun. We were wearing winter overcoats because we were going to the north of England.( We weren’t told then where we were going.)  It was pretty hard and some kids did faint. The SS Viking came in, the old steamship that was to take us to England. It wasn’t very big and they embarked two thousand children on board. They had us packed into every nook and cranny. They had some of us in the hulls, some in cabins and some on deck. Just about any place they could wedge us. Someone came around and gave us a spoonful of condensed milk from a tin. There were people trying to help us, give us something to eat. A farmer brought down a churn of milk so he could give us a drink. We eventually sailed. It was a very harrowing experience. We arrived at Southhampton a day and a half later. As we disembarked there were crowds on the harbourside cheering us.

We were put onto trains and then we were sent to the north of England. We went to Manchester where we were put into this large shed. We slept on the floor on blankets and we used our little school ports for pillows. My neck has given me trouble ever since. Strapped to my port was a copy of Winnie the Pooh that my father had put there. We were allowed to take one article with us, a toy or a book. My father strapped that down and I have it to this day.

We stood around this shed the next morning and people came from all around who had offered to take someone and look after us for a while. We stood there with labels around our necks and we were inspected. Our teachers who had come with us would say that we were well behaved and had come from a good family etc. Luckily I got a good report and I was taken home by a Mr and Mrs Taylor and I lived with them for several months. One day I was living happily at home with my parents and the next I was somewhere else, with strangers. You don’t know whats going on, your mind goes into a sort of blank. My parents caught up with me after that. Walking into the lounge room and seeing them standing there was an incredible experience. I had thought that I would never see them again. There was no news, no contact. No one knew what was happening in Guernsey. There was no news at all so I was told nothing.

They spent the remainder of the war in England until they were allowed back home.


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26 Responses to “Mikes Memoirs”

  1. Emjay Says:

    Must have been a harrowing time for all of them. Not sure that Nan Dodo was ever the same once they all got reunited.

  2. cat Says:

    well, lol, they seem to have been a fairly messed up family. Alcoholism, schizophrenia – two more things I have to beware of.

  3. Emjay Says:

    I think our generation is ok – it's the next lot we should be looking at ………

  4. Ninja Says:

    My parents were touched by war, too. Dad was actually about 11-years-old when the Japs rolled down through Malaya on bicyles from Thailand. From what he told us in later years, they took him and used him as an office boy cum general dogsbody. He wasn't mistreated or anything, thank god. Dad said that he even managed to learn a bit of Japanese during that time, a skill he kept until recent years when Alzheimers set in.
    Mum's family had 7 girls; she was No. 8 in the family. All my aunts had their heads shaved in anticipation of the worst; which thankfully didn't happen.
    I think war does something to people which those of us in peace-time can't ever explain fully or describe nearly accurate enough.

  5. Waterbaby Says:

    those written personal accounts that seemed so "normal" at the time capture a time, place and history that make you feel like you're there while it's happening. or it did me anyhow.

  6. cat Says:

    wow – your parents were lucky, from what I've read life under the japanese was very brutal.
    I know my father couldn't listen to the sounds of bombs being dropped on television, it'd bring him out in goosebumps. We definitely have had the good life here in australia.

  7. cat Says:

    Yes, you can really picture the kids all waiting to get on the ship and sleeping in the shed. Seems like something you'd see in a movie.

  8. cat Says:

    another one of those things I have stored away that seems a shame for no one to see.

  9. Lizzie Says:

    Thanks for sharing Cat (and your dad of course!)
    When I was much younger I would go and chat with the folk at the old people's home in our village and I loved the stories they would tell me about how things were in 'their day' and how life was so different. It's amazing to think that some of the things we get told by the oldies is only 70 or so years in our past, especially when you are told about hardships during the war years.
    It's a shame that the respect people had for each other back then is fast disappearing as well.

  10. cat Says:

    In the past 100 years the progress has been amazing. I remember my grandmother saw the invention of cars, to planes to man on the moon. Her must have boggled!

  11. Sounds absolutely frightening! I can't even imagine. I almost started to tear up when he saw his parents. Thanks for sharing this story. It makes history richer for me to hear personal stories like this. Otherwise it is all just political names and dates.

  12. cat Says:

    Yes, I always imagine him there with his little winnie the pooh book being inspected by people. All scared and confused. Because he was an only child and very close to his parents.

  13. Heartbreaking! Poor thing! And his parents must have been out of their mind with worry as well!

  14. Raymond Says:

    The story reads like fine wine. Perhaps during the war there were many similiar stories, but to read such a story today is to sample history's vintage moments. Thanks for sharing this story…

  15. cat Says:

    Just recently he sent me a whole lot of tapes with him talking about his life. Has been interesting.

  16. Raymond Says:

    Are you thinking about a compliation, maybe putting something together? Well, its an interesting thought…be a shame not to share… 🙂

  17. cat Says:

    I've been typing them up. He was doing it as a kind of therapy – trying to help himself get rid of bad memories by speaking them alound. Sometimes it's very sad listening to them – you can tell he still has vivid memories

  18. LeendaDLL Says:

    I can't imagine….

  19. An Ex-Expat Says:

    Definately keep typing the diary up; its a record for your genration and for those to come. Was blown away by the spoonfull of condensed milk and just one personal article.
    Just where did he wind up for the duration? I ask since he mentioned bringing his overcoat. From my experience in traveling in England, its much cooler-colder when I got to Edinburgh, than here in the Central Atlantic States.

    There was a BBC-produced TV drama series, the name of which escapes me, aired here about 2 years ago, porportedly showing life in the ocupied Channel Islands. Wonder if it aired where you are?

  20. cat Says:

    They had to move around a bit but the weather in Guernsey was much warmer than in England and I guess they dressed them in coats not really knowing where they would be going or for how long. He started in Manchester where he said it was – cold as charlie, then he went to Gloucestershire then Sussex and Cornwell. I didn't see the show – I've only read a book.

  21. An Ex-Expat Says:

    Interesting. The vast difference in temperature between where I grew up and England answered a question that had long been on my mind. I had read in my school history books that many of the first English settlers here died from the summer heat, which of course puzzled me as I and my friends would play baseball, ride our bikes, etc., with abandon and no ill effects.
    But now I understand. coming from where they came from the heat probably did overwhelm some.

  22. cat Says:

    Same when they come to Australia – the heat suprises them. They all get terribly sunburnt! Even the summers in England aren't really hot. I couldn't live in a cool damp climate like that.

  23. An Ex-Expat Says:

    OK, I get it The way you differeniate an Ozzie from a Pom, is the degree of sunburn? (LOL)

  24. cat Says:

    ha – we like to call them whinging poms

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