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Beryl McMullen

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Childhood Evacuation World War 11
By Beryl McMullen   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Saturday, June 28, 2008
Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2008

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This is an excerpt from a much longer story of my life growing up in Britain during World War 11

Childhood Evacuation World War 11


‘When I climbed out of bed Friday September 1 1939, German troops were making their way across the border into Poland! September 3 1939 Britain declared on Germany and the horror of parents listening to the news that Germany had torpedoes the 13,.500 ton passenger liner :”Athenia” on route from Glasgow to Quebec, Montreal.1,130 passengers aboard, 118 lost their lives many of them children. This caused such a furor that Hitler ordered there would be no more attacks on passenger ships, no matter what the nationality!

That summer had been a hot one mom took us on a picnic to Stratford where Shakespeare was born and in August a holiday to Seaton a coastal seaside place in Devon, well known for its cider and clotted cream. Dad was away with the Air force, but being in the reserve was called up before things started to happen.

I was relatively a happy child, but life for everyone slowly began to change: Air raids started and the Germans began dropping their bombs, everyone was issued with gas masks, and smaller children like my Mickey Mouse gas masks and in every other garden an Anderson air-raid shelter were assembled. Within a few weeks the evacuations of thousands of children from London Birmingham and other big cities began. It was an operation that would have a profound effect on many of us later on in life. We were uprooted from our homes and dispatched to live with strangers some of us for a few years!

There was abuse not all children were welcome in families that took us in and I certainly had my share of rough treatment from some! However, it must be said, the independence forced on us at such an early age gave us an education - an appreciation of life’s incongruities no school could have provided.

Children with name tags pinned to coats, carrying gas masks, suit cases or shopping bags containing their belongings, teachers carried placards with the name of their school, came from all over snaking their way to bus stops and railway stations Tearful parents saying good bye to their kids wondering where they would be sleeping that night. As I boarded the train biting my lip I waved good bye with my handkerchief like the rest of the children till our parents standing on the platform were out of sight!'

There were some children still away in the countryside when the war had ended.  Now a big problem was immerging because the bombing had taken a major toll on cities children now 4 to 6 years older came flooding back – more housing was needed and as a result resettlement wasn’t completed till 1946.    

Some children enjoyed the countryside others hated it. Mine was mixed. Religious beliefs were tempered, so was attitudes towards authority, because as evacuees we suffered the humiliation of being picked out treated like cattle and taken away by strangers!  

Parents who listened to calls of help from their children brought them home again I wish it been me!  Dad serving in the Middles East and mom in the British Red Cross attached to the army at Whitten Barracks.  I didn’t come home till two years before the war ended.  For better or worse evacuation had the effect of splitting up families that may never again were reunited, some children returning home, were not always welcome and for them it was traumatic- unable to cope with life they ran away back to the homes were they had been shown affection.  Others sent to Australia for safety it was even worse, thinking their parents were killed in the bombing were placed in orphanages only to find years later they had been lied to - just terrible!  There’s one thing for sure no matter what I would never send my children away!’


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Reviewed by Mary Coe 7/31/2009
My father served in this war. I was born during the war, in 1940. This is a great write; very interesting read.
Reviewed by Tom Hyland 7/13/2009
BERYL - Thank you for sharing your deep feelings in this story.

Americans, who never experienced such atrocities, have no concept of what British children had to endure. This lack of similar experience barsone from feeling any deep empathy.

In my own case, having been born 8/25/1940 - I was too little to understand anything that was going on the world at the time. When the war ended in 1945, people were celebrating, having "Block Parties" and literally 'dancing in the streets.' But I didn't really know WHY! Accordingly, it is hard to even comprehend what children in Europe and Japan were living through - such a traumatic experience is unfathomable to us.

While the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor was horrendous, it was not on mainland soil. This is why the 9-11 tragedy came as such a devastating shock. Although heinous in nature, this terrorist act did not cause national panic - quite to the contrary, it UNIFIED US.

It was really a "wake-up call" that removed much of our nonchalance, and prompted a greater level of both awareness and security needs.


Peace - Tom.
Reviewed by Emile Tubiana 6/28/2008
Dear Beryl,
I am happy to see you write again. World War II is a sad one and it left a lot of terrible memories. I am very happy that you are able to describe many episodes for generations to come. In fact we are the only generation which can relate the horrors of that war. We are the real witnesses. Of course, there are, alas many other wars in this world. It will take many other centuries until human beings will get settled in peace. Meanwhile we have to live with all the pain and horror of the images and feelings that everyone, and in each generation had endured.

Congratulations for this great write; it is your contribution to the world. However, now that you put them in writing, please take all these memories off your chest and do not keep any grudge against anyone. Love, Emile

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