Sunday, 18 September 2016

The WWII Evacuation to Derbyshire

Evacuation of children during the Second World War
by Gillian Mawson – August 2016

In the early hours of 1 September 1939, the British Government's plans for evacuation swung into operation and millions of children, teachers and mothers were moved to safety before war was declared on 3 September. Other waves of evacuation occurred from May 1940 onwards, when fears of the invasion of Britain became very real.  Since 2008 I have interviewed over 600 evacuated children and adults - from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar – to collect their wartime experiences, documents and photographs. I feel it is important that these stories are preserved for future generations. I have organised evacuee reunions and published two books, 'Guernsey Evacuees:The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War' and 'Evacuees: Children's Lives on the WW2 Home Front'. My third book will be published on 1 December 2016 and contains stories and documents from evacuees all over Britain, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar.

Families throughout Derbyshire and the High Peak received large numbers of evacuees from areas such as Manchester, Southend, Lowestoft and the Channel Islands.  Boys from Guernsey's Elizabeth College lived at 'Whitehall' on Long Hill between Buxton and Whaley Bridge whilst the senior boys lived at the Florence Nightingale Home in Great Hucklow.  Alan Boast lived in a Lowestoft children's home and remembers his journey to Derbyshire in great detail:
The sight that met my eyes when we arrived at the station was something I will never forget.There were children everywhere, hundreds of them – and I was one! We were told we were being evacuated for our safety, and would be going school by school, not as Home boys. We were taken to the front of the station where ladies were waiting for us. They had lots of labels and wrote our name, school and age on each one and tied or pinned it to our clothes.
            This must not be taken off, we were told. On to the platform where our train was being reversed
            in.   If needed – go to the toilet, as it would be some time before we could go again! We were
            then  lined up, and more ladies arrived, with a trolley-full of boxes. They gave us two sticks of
            barley sugar each. We were told to wait until we were on our way before sucking them, as they
            were to combat ‘travel sickness’ – whatever that was!  Into the carriages we were shown, 
            teachers and all, and off we went! Major Humphery (the Mayor)  told us that the honour of                    Lowestoft rested on our shoulders, and we had to be well-behaved.

Alan later found himself in the Co-Operative Stores hall in Glossop:
In came these people from the village to select which boy, or boys, they would take in and look after. ‘I’ll have him, I’ll take those two’ etc. I put on my best beaming smile but nobody picked me! Soon the hall was cleared and there were only two of us left, myself and a boy called Peter Harvey. He wasn’t a Home boy but I knew him from school. In came two ladies and after a lot of talking one said ‘I’ll take them as I have room for two.’ So off we went with these two ladies into what turned out to be a different world entirely – believe me! One of the ladies introduced herself as Mrs Townsend and said we would be living with her. We followed them out, under the railway bridge and into Clowne. I, as usual was chattering to Peter about where we were going. Mrs Townsend looked round and said in a broad Derbyshire accent, 'If thou don’t shut thee rattle. I’ll belt thee tabs!' I was taken aback – I will never forget it! 'What did she just say?' I asked Peter. He shrugged his shoulders, saying 'I couldn’t understand it.' It was our first experience of the local dialect, which took some understanding. I have often wondered since, what they thought of our Suffolk twang! For those of you who don’t know it meant, 'Stop talking or you’ll get a thick ear!'

The fate of pupils at Earl Hall School in Southend was decided on Sunday, 20 May 1940 when the BBC announced that East Anglian coastal towns were to be evacuated by 2 June, for fear of German invasion. During a bewildering week, parents had to decide whether to have their children evacuated and that their destination would be Derbyshire.  Doreen Acton (nee Mason) left Southend with Westcliffe High School:
I remember waving good-bye to my mother and was surprised to see her eyes fill with tears. There did not appear to be any immediate danger either to my parents or to us.  We had no idea where we were going and as the long train journey progressed, rumours began to circulate. Finally we were told it was to be Chapel-en-le-frith in Derbyshire. After a short drive in a chauffeur-driven car, my friends and I arrived at an impressive mansion, Bowden Hall, outside Chapel-en-le-Frith. We were greeted by a friendly looking elderly gentleman who shook our hands. Freda and Beryl were directed to bedrooms in the mansion to unpack. Audrey and I were taken to the chauffeur's cottage,  we did not know then that the chauffeur and his wife had hospitably given up their bed to us. We went back to the main house and again met our host, Mr Lauder. It appeared his wife was away visiting their daughter.
            Chrissie, the Scottish maid, was a very good cook and we were served up delicious meals. I had been used to breakfast, dinner, tea and supper - we now switched over to breakfast, lunch, evening dinner and a hot drink before bed. After about a week or two, Mrs Lauder returned home. At first I got the impression that she thought we had been allowed too much liberty. We were consigned to the kitchen for meals. Very soon however she realised we were quite house trained and not a threat to peace and good order. From then on she treated us as kindly and generously as her husband.

Another young girl, evacuated from Southend's Earls Hall school, enclosed some picture postcards in her first letter home:
Dear All, I hope you are all well at home. We arrived at Chinley at 3.30 Sunday afternoon and when we got out of the train some boy scouts gave us all a half pint bottle of milk. After waiting about twenty minutes we got on a bus to Whaley Bridge. We went to a hall and had a cup of tea and a piece of cake. After about one hour they started to put the children to their new homes. First the farmer came and said we could go there but the teacher would not let us. Then the vicar came and asked us to go to the rectory but then something happened. After all we were put with Mrs Bailey. As soon as we got home she got tea and when we had finished, Winifred and Yvonne took us to the post box. These postcards are some of the lovely places here, and my bedroom window looks out on a lovely hill. Please send my shorts and my music book. We are all very well. Give my love to grannie, Love Kathleen

The aim of evacuation was to send children and adults to safety until the war was over. However, many never returned home after the war. Evacuees died whilst being evacuated or within days or weeks of arriving in a 'safe' area. Some suffered accidents whilst exploring their new communities with friends. Others died because of the inherent dangers of wartime such as air raids, unexploded bombs and minefields. In addition to this, some children endured neglect, physical and mental cruelty and sexual abuse at the hands of their foster parents. These stories make very difficult reading but need to be shared in order to provide a full picture of the British evacuation experience.
Beryl Blake-Lawson's friend suffered a fatal accident whilst returning to her billet and Beryl recalls, 'There was one tragedy, one day running down the hill from Bank Hall for lunch at her billet, Christine Markham, tripped and fell against the stone wall and was found by two senior girls. It was a great shock to them as she had broken her neck and was dead.'

Faith and Stella Shoesmith, aged 6 and 9, were evacuated from Lowestoft to Glossop and  Faith remembers the harsh treatment received in their billet:
We were the last to be picked and grudgingly collected by a Mrs Jessie Woods. Our stay was very unhappy as she treated us like slaves. Every Saturday we had to clean all of the bedrooms from top to bottom and we also had to polish the hall floor on our hands and knees. Mrs Woods inspected our work thoroughly afterwards to make sure that we had done a good job. We were not allowed into the dining room, and if we wanted to go upstairs, we had to ask permission. I would say 'Please may I go upstairs?' or 'Can I please go upstairs?' but it was always wrong and Mrs Woods would stand and laugh at us. We had to mind our manners, stand with straight backs and walk a certain way! 
            Our Dad had joined the army. Mum was in Lowestoft and every now and then she would send us parcels of sweets but we never received them. She did visit us when she could, and always brought sweets and toys with her. Our one victory was that we found a large square tin of biscuits hidden behind Mrs Woods' wardrobe. Every week when we cleaned her bedroom we helped ourselves to one biscuit.  After about two years Mum found a place in Sherwood and took us there so we could all be together.

When the war was over, many children were delighted to be returning home. However, for some it was 'evacuation' all over again as they struggled to readjust to life with their own families. Younger children in particular had come to love their wartime foster parents. Their own parents, whom they had rarely or never seen since their evacuation, were a distant memory. One boy remembers that the little girl who had lived with them for five years did not want to return home to her parents, 'She had forgotten them completely and was dragged kicking and screaming out of our house by her father. It was very upsetting for us all.’ Doreen Holden did not enjoy leaving the Matlock countryside to return to Manchester, 'I felt very claustrophobic back home, there were noisy buses and trains and the smell of smoke in the air. Of course I didn't let Mum and Dad know how I felt. Mary and Vi Draper did not want to leave Derbyshire either and Mary recalls: 'When we had to leave Mr and Mrs Bacon to return to our Dad in Lowestoft, it broke our hearts as well as theirs. They had no children of their own and had practically become our Mum and Dad – our own Mum had died. The war really did us a favour because Mr and Mrs Bacon (Auntie Bee and Uncle Bob) were marvellous to us, treating us like little princesses. Luckily many of the children remained in contact with their wartime foster families, through letters and visits, for the rest of their lives. Many have attended evacuee reunions in the areas in which they lived during the war whilst villages and towns have unveiled plaques in memory of the evacuees they welcomed so many years ago.

Gilllian's new book will be published on 1 December by Frontline Books. The chapters include: Plans for Evacuation, The Parents' Decision, Finding Homes for evacuees, Wartime Letters Home, Evacuated adults and teachers, The kindness of strangers, Out of the Frying Pan, The return home and the Aftermath of evacuation.  For more information see Gillian's author page on Amazon:

Her Evacuation blog can be viewed at:

Mary and Vi Draper


Evacuee children from Southend arrive at Chapel-en-le-Frith in 1940

Children are met at Whaley Bridge

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The David Frith Memorial Bridge

 A recent update on these proposals has been received and may be read by following the link below.

An imaginative proposal by Graham Aldred envisages a new footbridge at the head of Toddbrook Reservoir. This would give access to a footpath leading to Kishfield Bridge. The bridge will be dedicated to David Frith. A fitting memorial, as  David in his working and leisure time, was greatly concerned with Toddbrook Reservoir and with our local footpaths.

The fully detailed proposal may be found here: 

or by clicking the link above 

Monday, 12 September 2016

A Curious Occurrence at Hayfield

from Vivian Preston Dubé
7 September · Glenbrook, NSW, Australia

Hayfield, besides being the chief portal to Kinder, is not without some singular event to keep its
name in remembrance. Indeed, it seems to have had a resurrection on its own account in 1745.
Dr. James Clegg, a Presbyterian minister, who resided at Chapel-en-le-Frith in the middle of
the last century, gave an account of the extraordinary occurrence in a letter to his friend, the Rev.
Ebenezer Latham, then the principal of Findern Academy.
' I know,' he wrote, ' you are pleased with anything curious and uncommon by nature ; and if what
follows shall appear such, I can assure you from eye-witnesses of the truth of every particular. In a
church about three miles from us, the indecent custom still prevails of burying the dead in the place
set apart for the devotions of the living ; yet the parish not being very populous, we could scarce
imagine that the inhabitants of the grave could be straightened for want of room ; yet it should seem
so ; for on the last of August several hundreds of bodies rose out of the grave in the open day in the
church, to the great astonishment and terror of several spectators. They deserted the coffin, and
arising out of the grave, immediately ascended towards heaven, singing in concert all along, as they
mounted through the air. They had no winding-sheets about them, yet did not appear quite naked ;
their vesture seemed streaked with gold, interlaced with sable, skirted with white, yet thought to be
exceedingly light, by the agility of their motions, and the swiftness of their ascent. They left a most
fragrant and delicious odour behind them, but were quickly out of sight ; and what has become of them,
or in what distant regions of this vast system they have since fixed their residence, no mortal can tell.
The church is in Heafield, three miles from Chappelle-en-le-frith, 1745.' (Taken from The History of Derbyshire by John Pendleton 1886)

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Hear John Wesley Preach !

On Sunday 18th September the Rev John Wesley will preach a sermon upon the topic of ‘Awake, thou that sleepest’ in the New Chapel on High Street.  Hymns by Rev Charles Wesley will be sung.
The ‘New Chapel’ on High Street that is the home for Revive Church will be 250 years old this year and is the oldest place of worship in New Mills still in use for its original purpose. John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) preached there regularly and to celebrate the anniversary, history will be re-created. Come and hear Reverend Wesley preach and watch the multimedia story of the building to the present day.  18th Century dress encouraged!
10.00 – 11.00, Admission Free