MEMORIES OF A WARTIME EVACUEE -  OH MR ATTLEE WHAT DO YOU DO ?

By  Joe Hewlett

 

It was early in 1940 when I was first evacuated from my home in Edmonton, North London and my earliest memory was my arrival at Liverpool Street Station in London and the fear in of not knowing where I was heading . I can remember being put onto a train and our first stop was at Ipswich in Suffolk. We remained on the train and then continued until we arrived at Norwich in Norfolk. From here we were taken by coach to the village of Colton in Norfolk.

On our arrival at Colton we were met by the local Squire who I was later to learn was named Squire Kidner ( I presume that was how he spelled his name) . It’s funny all these years later the little things you remember but I can recall the first thing he did was to place a clenched fist in front of me and ask if I could guess what he held in his hand. It turned out to be a wild strawberry which he then handed to me. It was something I had never tasted before. It was the Squire’s task to decide where the children were to be billeted and, along with two brothers named ‘Dace’ we were sent to the local Rectory. The Dace brothers were also from London and, as far as I can recall, they were from the Elephant & Castle area in South London.
We were to stay at the home of the Reverend Easton, who was the vicar at the local church of St Andrew Colton. I believe that Mrs Easton’s name was Nora and they also had a son, who I am sure was named Edmund. He was much older than either the Dace brothers or myself and we didn’t really mix with him much. We used to help the gardener Mr Galt, who was also the husband of Mrs Galt the village schoolmistress.

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ST ANDREW'S CHURCH COLTON

We, however, attended the school at the village of Honingham some 2 miles away. Most days we walked to and from school although very occasionally, if there was sufficient fuel, we would get a lift in the local bus.
I was later to discover that Mrs Easton was the sister of Clement Attlee, the Deputy Prime Minister during the war and member of the war cabinet. Mr Attlee would often visit his sister and would sometimes be accompanied by who I assumed were other government officials. One one occasion I can recall seeing an RAF Officer with artificial legs that I later suspected could have been Group Captain - Douglas Bader.

The rectory was quite large and had running water and also a telephone which was unusual for me. If they were to hold a meeting we were sent along to spend time with Mrs Milderton, who lived in a small cottage in the village. Unlike the rectory there was no running water in the cottage and it was my job to draw water from the water pump in the garden. But It always intrigued me what was going with all those men back at the rectory.

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CLEMENT ATTLEE M.P

 

The village of Colton was quite small and I can recall old Mr Madders who had a small workshop where he would repair bicycles and some motor repairs. I can to this day remember quite vividly the smell of the rubber solution he used to repair punctures. There was also an unusual pub in the village which looked more like a house. It was only one room and access was along a narrow passageway. We were very rarely allowed to mix with the boys from the village. I don’t think that the locals approved of the evacuee boys who were up from London.

After several months living as an evacuee in Colton we learnt that the threatened bombings in London had not arrived and I was allowed to return to my parent’s house in London. However this was short lived because the London Blitz started shortly afterwards and before I knew it I was on my way back to the Rectory in Colton. However, I was never to see the Dace brothers again. They had also returned to London during the lull in bombings. Things were kept very hush, hush but I later heard the rumour that they had both been killed during a bombing raid.
The food that we had at the Rectory was fine although not very big helpings. We never had sweets or chocolates but I can remember the cook would make what was known as ‘Shrewsbury Cake’ which was sprinkled with sugar.

Despite being a small village, Colton was not short of incidents. I can recall when a barrage balloon got tangled up on the Church roof and also when a bomb was dropped in a nearby meadow. The bomb disposal squad were called to defuse the bomb and I can recall it was quite a hot day. The bomb disposal team were asked at the Rectory if they would like a drink and I can still see their faces to this day as they were only given glasses of water!

On another occasion two spitfire aircraft, that we were later to learn were being used for training, crash- landed in a nearby field. Some people had seen the pilots eject but no parachutes opened. Some of the local villagers, armed only with broomsticks, rushed up to the field because they believed any survivors could have been German pilots but of course there was little they could do.

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MAP OF NORWICH NORFOLK

Colton  - East of Norwich Nr Honingham

I can also remember seeing Wellington Bombers in distress flying low over the field in their attempts to return to base. Quite often these would also crash into the local fields.

I can also recall some of the local villagers holding a meeting to create a Home Guard unit within the village. Somewhere I still have an old photograph of the villagers when they attended the meeting.
My time spent at Colton was very happy and I was to revisit the village many times after the war. I would often visit Mrs Milderton and stay over in her cottage.

I returned to the village several years ago and had hoped to revisit the Rectory but unfortunately this was not possible as I was denied access by the then occupier. They also had no recollection of the Reverend Easton occupying the Rectory during the War years. It’s so sad that after all the hardship we all endured how soon people can be forgotten by history.

Article prepared January 2014 - Joe Hewlett's Grandmother lived in Summerhill Road, Tottenham  and Joe spent much od his time there.

Background photograph - Evacuees leaving the city by train.

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