1940: Evacuation from London to Tyntesfield

An aerial view of Tyntesfield © National Trust

An aerial view of Tyntesfield

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Bill speaks of his evacuation from London. He had been living in an air raid shelter for 4 weeks with his four brothers and sisters in September 1940. His elder brother was at Dunkirk.

They got meals from the church army mobile canteen and the driver noted that they had been there for 4 weeks. The air raid warden was in his 80s and had arthritis. Bill was 16 and the most mobile person in the shelter so they asked him to be an air raid messenger. 

The driver could see that Bill was getting low being in the shelter and he managed to get him an interview with the priest at a church in Yatton. However, he said that Bill would have to find this own way down. The main evacuation took part in 1939 so many of the houses in the country were full with evacuees.

Bill had no money as he had left school at 14. So he went to visit his aunt in Greenwich who was in service at one of the big houses. She gave Bill £15 which was a large amount of money in 1940. He ran back to the shelter and gathered up his siblings and walked to Paddington to get the train down to Bristol Temple Meads. He had never been out of London before.

He remembers the train being a non-corridor train and the train was shunted in to sidings two or three times. The journey normally took 3 or 4 hours but this journey took nearly 10 hours. There was no access to the toilets because it was a non-corridor train. When they got to Reading, Bill’s sister who was only four was distressed and crying. They managed to get off the train and get to the toilet.

They had had nothing to eat or drink so Bill managed to get down to a buffet but the woman serving told him that a troop train had just been through and taken everything. In the end, they managed to find them some chocolate biscuits and a cup of tea.

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