Nannah really came into her own when we were learning about WW2 and in particular the Evacuation. She was evacuated at 15 which effected so much of her life. When I was about fourteen I interviewed her about her evacuation experiences and this was her recollection:-
|Kathleen Rudd pictured (circled) along with her fellow evacuees from Clacton. June 2nd 1940.|
On the second of July 1940, fifteen year old Kathleen Rudd stood along with three hundred and forty other pupils, clutching a small bag and a white panama hat (rarely seen on her head). She, as everyone else clad in the Clacton County High School navy and white uniforms, had no idea of the destination. The only part of the journey known being the quick march to Clacton Railway Station. They were being evacuated to escape the threat of German invasion or arial action along the south-east coast.
After a long, tiresome train journey the party of school children and teachers finally arrived at Kidderminster: a town in the Midlands well known for it’s carpet industry. However this was not their final stopping place. Instead they were to be sent to the surrounding villages. Kathleen was sent to Blakedown, a pretty fruit growing village with only three shops - basically just a stop on the main road to Birmingham. On the children’s arrival the receivers were in for a shock - they had been expecting toddlers! Kathleen remembers:-
“There were four of us put in the same room, the walls plastered in bright nursery rhyme characters. This we did not like!We were billeted with a well off elderly couple with a large house. They were very much the ‘aristocrat type’. We didn’t like it there as we felt locked up. We were expected to stay in the garden all the time and play on the croquet lawn. Eventually we could stand it no longer and decided to sneak out. This resulted in the decidedly nettled couple insisting we be moved elsewhere. This of course suited us just fine!
I was billeted alone the next time around with a middle class couple - a school teacher and her husband, an industrial chemist who commuted daily to Birmingham. They had quite a modern house with lovely china and ornaments of which I was terrified of breaking, and matching furniture. They were very kind and treated me very well. I learned to knit and was very proud of my first jumper. They even took me on holiday to Wales to a small seaside resort near Aberystwyth. We travelled by car, which was a novelty for me as my parents didn’t have one. The couple were very strict health freaks and while in their care I was fed lots of salads and fruits which I enjoyed very much as I would eat anything and everything in those days. The only food I couldn’t abide were the marmite sandwiches which appeared in my lunchbox every day without fail. Of course marmite was un-rationed and very nourishing, but I am sorry to say that these were disposed of in the bushes on the way to the bus. However I’m sure the birds were grateful!
My social life in Blakedown was great, but I must admit it overpowered my schooling. Every evening my friends and I gathered at the local tennis club and we quickly made friends with the local children, especially the boys! I had my bicycle sent up from Clacton and I remember the fun we had going for long rides and picnics. The weather was so lovely that summer. The sun shone relentlessly from early morning till night and the evenings were warm and calm. Perfect tennis weather! There was certainly no incentive to stay in and revise for the exams that were looming in the very near future. It was the most important school year for me in that I was taking my School Certificate. School life was a joe. We were taught in a kind of art museum and I remember nude statues everywhere. This caused much amusement - especially amongst the males of the group. Traffic droned by outside of the building on the main road continuously and it was almost impossible to settle to any proper work. Although I did get fairly good marks in my exams despite little revision, I’m sure I could have achieved much better results had I been at home.
For some reason I had to move again to another billet. I realise now that I must have been a big responsibility to my foster parents and they probably had had enough. I was sent to a remote village with another girl who I hated and the people I stayed with were elderly and very strict and conservative in their ways. I remember we were given our rations individually every week and it was torture trying to eke them out. In the end we made a competition out of it to see who could make them last the longest. There was a huge damson tree outside of my bedroom window smothered in fruit which was very usefully positioned from my point of view! I hated it there as there was nothing to do and regrettably the fact that I disliked it so much influenced my decision to return to Clacton instead of staying at school.
There is no doubt that evacuation effected both my exam results and my choice to leave school and abandon the idea of taking my Higher School Certificate. I have come to regret this very much as it has affected my whole life and would hve helped me to have a better career.
None the less, I enjoyed my experiences of evacuation and value the memories.
I loved hearing Nannah's stories of growing up and when she was younger. She used to take me to London regularly for a while and always gave her top tip when standing on the tube to stand with your legs apart and knees bent - learned from her bus conductor days during the war!
So many stories and so many more I wanted to hear.
I will miss you very much Nannah. xxx