Sunday 1 September 2019

World War 2 Eighty Years On - Friday, September 1st. 1939

German forces invade Poland. 

Eton and Eton Wick having been designated an area safe from air attack, prepared to receive their allotted number of evacuees from London. At the Southern Railway Riverside station, Windsor, Council Officers and helpers gathered to meet the trains bringing the evacuated school children and mothers with young children.  Of the eight hundred children scheduled for Eton and Eton Wick only five hundred and seventy-eight arrived. On arriving at Eton Wick the evacuees assembled at the village hall where potential foster parents were waiting. Archibald Chew, appointed Billeting Officer for Eton Wick, had recruited retired police officer Fred Warner, the village school head teacher, Christina Plumridge and Mrs Chew to assist him.  On arrival some children were distraught when they realized they were to stay with a strange family.   Because foster parents were allowed to choose to which child they took difficulties sometimes arose.  In the few instances where these situations occurred Mr and Mrs Chew took the unfortunates in until a satisfactory solution was found.   It was a time-consuming job carried out with great dedication by Councillor Chew and his helpers. 

Mr E.F.Pressey,  E.U.D.C. Surveyor, reported at the time, that most children had settled into their new homes well, but some families viewed the situation with trepidation as they remembered stories of the East End slums and wondered how they would cope.

Sylvia Collier. — 

“Mum had put our names down for evacuation and was told that we were to be ready to go if the war became more imminent.  For a fortnight we had practised getting to the school early with our belongings and forming into our respective groups.  Our school, near to Wormwood Scrubs, had forty classes so took most of the children in the area where with we lived.  On the morning of September 1st. we assembled and made our way to East Acton Station to board the train for our unknown destination.  My brother and I thought we were going for a fortnight, so unconcerned, waved goodbye to Mum as the train pulled away taking us to Wiltshire.  Our mother, with my five-year-old brother, had stayed behind to care for her elderly father but was told on the Sunday morning to be ready to go, as it was advisable to get all children out of London. Her destination was the Willows, Windsor.  Later we were able to join Mum at the Willows”.       

Those evacuees who remained without billets following assembly at the village hall were placed by Mr Chew and his Billeting Officers.  Eight-year-old Roy Langdon was billeted by Fred Warner at 'Perseverance Place' with Mr and Mrs Harding.  His school had evacuated from Hammersmith which with a school from Stepney made up the allocation to Eton Wick.'Perseverance Place' in Alma Road also housed the  Eton / Eton Wick Gas Supply Maintenance Depot.  At this period Mr Harding was the depot manager.    

Dick Harding —–

" He arrived complete with cardboard suitcase, gas mask, a tin of corned beef and a tin of Libbys milk.  The revealing thing about Roy was his East London accent.  One day during a discussion on the impending sugar ration, Roy chipped in with “My dad's got a sack of sugar, he knocked it off darn the docks.” Within a week Roy's parents were down to see him.   Air raids on London had not materialized so Roy only stayed a few weeks before being taken home by his parents”    

The different home life of the evacuee to that of the foster parent at time brought about difficult and amusing situations as Mrs Cook experienced with her two billeted girls, Iris Birch and Betty Garcia.          

"The first week one of the girls refused her Sunday dinner and when I asked what was wrong said, "I want my Sunday dinner". Questioned as to what her Sunday dinner usually comprised, the answer came, `"Tatters, Ham and Beer!''. On another occasion the girl came running into the house exclaiming "Quick missus, Go and jaw that women next door she's calling you names". What was calling turned out to be a Cuckoo bird, the call of which she had never heard before.          

Evacuated with 'The Hamlet of Ratcliffe Central School', White Horse Lane, Stepney, George White found his wartime home with Mr and Mrs Cox of Tilstone lane, Eton Wick, staying until he joined the army in 1943.  Before enlisting he had made his mark with others as a musician entertaining the troops stationed on the Dorney common camp.   A small number of pupils from the Green Coat school which had evacuated from Mile End also came to the village, but the majority were billeted in Eton. 

Girls from the Clapham County School were billeted at the home of College masters. Two sisters were taken to Savile house the home of Dr. and Mrs Ley.  The girls were made welcome by Eva Bond, one of the household maids. who befriended the two very bewildered girls.

Not all homes were suitable to take evacuees and among those that were, the Billeting Officers at times met with householder objection.  Initially there was choice as to whether or which child was taken, but eventually the Government took powers to enforce the acceptance of an evacuee if room was available in the home.  A weekly billeting allowance of ten shillings for the first child of school age and eight shillings and sixpence for each additional child with three shillings and sixpence available for laundry if a child was bed wetting was paid by the Government.  Some evacuee children were perturbed by their new surroundings finding it hard to adapt to village life and difficulties did arise at times between foster parents, evacuee and the Billeting Officer.  Often health problems, discipline within the home and the extra work involved for the housewife was the cause which put a strain on the family relationships.   Difficulties arose within one village family where the health of the wife suffered so much that it became necessary to place the two evacuees in other accommodation.  After a suitable period of time the billeting officer tried to place other children with this family. This was unacceptable to the husband whose refusal to take further evacuated children resulted in a Summons being issued to him by the Eton U.D.C. under the War Emergency Acts.  The husband’s appearance before the court resulted in a fine of eight shillings.  

An advisory panel set up by the council to help with these difficult situations included, The Hon. Mrs Butterwick; Mrs C.H.Hartley; Messrs A.B.Chew; P. Ashby; E.F. Mills and H.Bunce.         
The precaution of evacuating some essential services from London such as food distribution establishments brought the Billingsgate Wholesale Fish Market to Datchet.

This is an extract from Round and About Eton Wick: 1939 - 1945. The book was researched, written and published in 2001 by John Denham. 

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