Norfolk evacuees recall wartime memories

Anthony CarrollThe last time they were together they were children being taken by train from Great Yarmouth 70 years ago to escape the horrors of Nazi bombs.Anthony Carroll

The last time they were together they were children being taken by train from Great Yarmouth 70 years ago to escape the horrors of Nazi bombs.

Yesterday, 120 second world war evacuees from Yarmouth and the surrounding villages held a reunion in the town hall.

In June 1940, about 40pc of Yarmouth's school children were evacuated to Nottinghamshire to escape Luftwaffe bombing raids.

As the former evacuees gathered in the town hall, they shared their memories, some painful and some joyful, of living away from their parents.

Ray Walpole was 12 when as a Yarmouth Grammar School boy he was evacuated from his Reedham home to Retford.

He vividly remembers the moment when Nottinghamshire families had to chose which children to home after the youngsters had got off the train.

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Mr Walpole, who lives in Thorpe End, near Norwich, said: 'I remember being in what I thought was a cattle market yard.

'I remember me and another boy being the last ones to be chosen.'

Me Walpole added that he enjoyed his time away from home as it felt like he was at a boarding school and could still visit his family during holidays.

However, June Wilson, nee Kippen, who lives in Newnham Green, Gorleston, did not have such fond memories of being evacuated as a nine-year-old girl.

She remembered how the family looking after her were 'hard' on her brother David, who had muscular dystrophy, and she was 'loaned out to scrub floors'.

But a stoic Mrs Wilson said: 'We just did what we had to do.'

As a five-year-old, Brian Bracey remembered little about the day he was evacuated from Yarmouth to the sleepy village of Sturton-le-Steeple.

But describing his overall experience, Mr Bracey, who lives in Bradwell, said: 'It was very exciting for me. You feel no sense of danger when you are so young.'

Tom Holmes, 79, from Reynolds Avenue, Caister, was showing other former evacuees a photograph of himself as a young child in the Nottinghamshire village of West Markham.

He said: 'I can remember all the mothers crying as we left. We did not really know what would happen to us.'

As the former evacuees enjoyed a afternoon tea, they joined in singing old second world war favourites such as the White Cliffs of Dover.

Yarmouth Borough Council civic events officer Laura Goodman, who helped organise the event said: 'We expected about 60 people to turn up so to have 120 here is just fantastic.

'It must have been quite frightening for them to have been evacuated as children.'

Were you evacuated in the second world war? Write to the Evening News at Letters, Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.