Our Memories of Evacuation from Newcastle to Cumbria


Our names are Pat and Terry and we've been married for fifty years. We both have memories of evacuation during WW2 and we'd like to recount some of them here.

Pat's story:

Our whole school was evacuated to Cumbria on 2 September 1939, the day before war was declared.

I found out I was going about a week before; each of us was given our small bag with a bar of Kit Kat and tin of Fray Bentos Corned beef - I can't remember what else it contained!

I had to wear a label with my name and school on. I said goodbye to my parents in the school yard.

The whole school walked to Scotswood station to catch the train; I remember there were no toilets on the train, so we had to stop on the way!

Some of us left the train at Warwick Bridge, and were taken to the church hall; the host families selected the child they preferred, and off we went; my brother, who was asthmatic, was sent to a sanatorium, unbenown to my parents.

My host family had no children of their own, but coped well - Mr Scraggs was chauffeur at the local stately home. 

We attended school each afternoon - we never mixed with the local children, who went in the morning. Our teachers from Benwell had come with us.

In the morning I would go to the farm next door, and help churn the butter.

We didn't really know what was going on in the war, apart from the bombings that affected us directly; even though we went to the pictures twice a week the newsreels were censored and gave no specific information - we didn't, for instance, know about what was going on in London.

One day, after about two months, I was knocked down by a bicycle; my parents decided I should come home. My old school was being used by soldiers; I went to Pendower Open Air school for a while, then Whickham View.

Terry's Story:

I remember going to school one day and there was a buzz about the school that we were going to be evacuated. It seemed to come out of the blue although I vaguely remember having a mock evacuation which made sure we knew our way to the train station. I was shocked to learn our headmaster and some of our teachers were to go with us. I was lucky as my two sisters and my mum were all evacuated together. My mum was a volunteer helper who looked after the children.

On the way there we travelled on a special train service from Newcastle — we were issued with a bar of chocolate, some chewing gum, and a tin of corned beef — 24 hrs of rations I think, but no-one had a tin opener.

I really enjoyed the outward journey — it was a happy feeling for me. I remember it was a colourful September day and it was a happy feeling I felt, not like we were escaping from the enemy but more like we were going on a holiday or an adventure. My school pals were all there as well.

The train had a rest stop halfway through the journey and a local newspaper man took a photograph of us all for the local paper. My aunt saw the photo and bought it. I still have it and it has been published three times to date.

The family we stayed with lived in Cleator Moor. The couple had two children. Their son, Leo, was disabled and seemed to have no friends but we became good friends. He liked to play football but was quickly exhausted. So I used to read to him. Reading matter was scarce but I joined the local library and became interested in the local history.

I also remember finding were the Under Master of our school was in lodgings and we used to gather round the window watching him having his tea, thinking it very funny! We got wrong the following day at school.

I think we were lucky to have been taken in as a family, especially when it seemed like other children were like cattle at a market, being picked or rejected by those offering homes. We stayed for about 6 weeks in total and then my father visited and said he thought we should all come home.

Terry and Pat Quinn, Benwell

(c/o Radio Newcastle)


© Copyright Terry and Pat Quinn

This article is reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms for non-commerical use.

WW2 People's War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

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