Childhood as an evacuee during the war

What the women did and games we played as children

Greta Romaine

Photo:Greta on horseback

Greta on horseback

Photo from WRVS Archive

Women in World War Two

Being a young girl during the war, I was still at school in the North of England while I was evacuated, but I knew of the women who did work and helped war work. Some ladies did administration type jobs helping people organize church activities, knitting groups for soldiers' garments, cooking for canteens and school and even walking children to school in groups. There were other ladies who could help the war effort from their homes, such as home dress making and 'make do and mend'. This meant the ladies were helping a great deal to clothe the children and themselves when materials were scarce and materials were actually rationed by the way of 'clothing coupons'.

Recycling parachutes

The government allowed us old parachute panels to buy cheap for our underwear or any other bright ideas we could think of. The only trouble was that the nylon panels, by their very nature of resistance to the air in a parachute, were non-breathable material, and if made into a nice blouse with sleeves and collars, meant they were very hot and uncomfortable to wear. Another idea the women came up with was using army blankets which were cheap and could be made into our Long John coats.

Smart as youngsters

The unfortunate thing was that although we looked smart as youngsters, the coats were so heavy on our shoulders and could be quite itchy round our necks. Our outfits also included home made pixie hats. These were easy to knit as it was a long straight piece of knitting sewn up in the back with a point at the top. No good for your hair style mind! But nice and warm. I must say that although we didn't have central heating then, the ladies, mums and aunties did a great job of making us lovely warm clothes! Whatever we needed, all the women were wonderful at keeping house and home together.

Allotments

My earliest recollection on this subject is the vegetable growing on my uncle and aunt's allotment just after the war. My uncle kept a few chickens in his back garden so they had a good supply of eggs and chicken dinners which helped feeding their family as food was still scarce or rationed after the war. The allotments were alongside the railway line, so the gardeners could always straighten their backs for a minute while they watched the trains go by and often wave to the passengers, which people did in those days. It would have made the children's day on the train to have been able to wave at, and get waved at by people on their exciting journey to London. Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated on the allotment - lots of space and big bonfires and fireworks. Sparklers mostly and Catherine wheels pinned to a post.
The men loved to get over to their allotments and then there was a bonus of the extra vegetables given to all us relations!

Hobbies and Games

In wartime we played for hours in the country lane where I was evacuated, at the age of about eight to ten, activities were governed mostly in the playground at school. We used to play with small rubber balls, various colours so we knew which belonged to which child. We would stand in a line near a wall and each of us would throw the ball up and before we caught it, there were little movements to make such as clapping hands, turning, throwing under legs or jumping. The first one to drop the ball had to go to the back of the line.

Ball playing and chanting

The fun came when we played '2 balls' - more of a challenge and we had songs to chant at the same time. When we got home we had got locked on this craze, so after tea my cousin, fellow evacuee, and I would go into the lane and throw our balls against barn doors which happened to be high up on the farm building. This meant that the balls bounced higher, so we had to retrieve them from the stream or the field behind us.

Skipping ropes

These 'crazes' would last a few weeks then it would be skipping ropes in the playground but with a long rope held by two children. We had to run in while chanting rhymes until we were caught by the rope. When at home, we used individual skipping ropes. We got quite skilled at quite complicated routines and learnt well known skipping rhymes to match the fast moves.

Games of marbles

Marbles took over next and we would spend hours chasing them down our 'knobbly' lane. They would always land up in the long grass verge or plop into the 'beck'.
Although not a playground craze, my cousin and I made bows and arrows out of stripped elderberry branches. As we had a lovely long field in front of our cottage, we could aim for the furthest distance to be a winner.

Climbing trees and reading

At all times of the year, we loved to climb trees. Some very close to our cottage. One large oak had a good fork and we made two sitting places easily as gnarled stems of ivy had twined and made ledges. We would take our books to read and sit for a long time among the birds with the lovely gurgling of another stream and waterfalls below us. The sound of gurgling streams with clear water and stony bottoms takes me back to those lovely hours of bliss and solitude.

This page was added by Julius Smit on 08/09/2008.

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