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Photo of Pat Denham

London and evacuation

Pat Denham was ten years old at the time of the evacuation. She lived in a modern house on a new estate in London. She attended Woodmansterne Road Junior School, a new school with around three hundred and fifty pupils.

The entire school of staff and pupils evacuated together, leaving the school's grounds empty. Pat's mother was told about the evacuation and received various forms to fill out.

On the day of evacuation, the school children were taken by bus to Clapham Junction station. For the journey every child was given some food. Pat recalls the foods she was given:

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Caption: Children of Woodmansterne Junior School onboard the train at Clapham Junction station

"There were hundreds of children from different schools..we all lined up and were put into carriages..we didn't know where we were going..we thought it was like a Sunday school outing.."

The dangers at Eastbourne

The train arrived in Eastbourne on the South coast. At this time battles were taking places in Dunkirk in France. Dunkirk lies directly opposite Eastbourne.

"..when you think about it, it was a was a bit of a silly place to send hundreds of children..but the aim was to get the children of London quickly."

The entire school remained in Eastbourne for six months. It was a frightening time for Pat and many nights she awoke from sounds of the battles in Dunkirk. Eventually, it was decided that it was too dangerous for the children to stay. They left Eastbourne for Mid Wales by steam train. The journey took an entire day.

School life in Wales

The school arranged for each teacher to take responsibility of one class.

"As we came to small villages they dropped off one class and one teacher and we happended to be in the last carriage so we went the furthest!."

"We ended up in a very small village, the village school had about five pupils in..then we all turned up!"

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caption: The teachers and pupils of Woodmansterne Road Junior School who were evacuated to Farmers Village in Carmarthenshire, South Wales

The school in the village was very small. There was just one classroom, one cloakroom and another room for the teacher. The school was not larger enough to accommodate the new children so instead they used the local village hall.

Children were aged between five and twelve. They were taught all subjects including how to darn socks! The eldest of the boys also helped out on the farms becuase many of the village's farm labourers had been lost to the army. The children also helped prepare the school dinners.

"Everybody had to help with the work. Whatever subject they were doing, they would still be involved in preparing the dinner."

Cooking the dinner involved the use of large pots over a black iron stove. In the Winter time children enjoyed stew and in the summer, salads.

Evacuee life in Wales

Pat lived with an elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Lewis. Their house was in Billet, a neighbouring village to Pat's school.

"It was all dark, it had no electricity, no running water and the toilet was down at the bottom of the garden...I'd come from a modern housing estate so you can imagine it was a bit of a shock.."

Pat experienced many new things during her stay in the country. Outside of school she helped sheer sheep. Her carer, Mrs Lewis came from a large farming family and she herself owned a Welsh mountain pony. Without a saddle they would ride the pony up towards the mountains to a large barn where once a year they used it to sheer the sheep in. Pat and the other Welsh children would tie the legs of the sheep using a piece of cotton rag. Aside from the sheep sheering Pat helped with hay making. This was not so much fun becuase Pat suffered from hay fever.

Pat lived in Wales for three and half years before she returned to her home in London. At this time air raids were in occurrence. In the school holidays Pat revisited Wales and Mr and Mrs Lewis. At fourteen year old and just one year after returning home, Pat joined the work force.

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