Some Happy Memories & First Experiences of an 11 year old
Evacuee to Darsham, Sept. 1939.
(Hand written account by Joyce Brett, nee Phillips)
It was August 1939 when I, together with my brothers and sister and the rest of our school boarded a coach, waved cheerio to our Mum and set out for Liverpool Street Station to be evacuated to the country from the cities. What excitement! We didn't know what was happening or where we were going, but eventually our journeys that day took us to a village called Bruisyard in Suffolk.
In the village hall, ladies were waiting for us to choose which of us they were to have living with them. Being four, we were split up as a family. I took my youngest brother with me and my sister and other brother were billeted also on a farm across the road from us.
What fun we had the few days that we were there. It was the first time that we had ever seen fields! let alone a farm with cows, sheep, pigs, goats or geese even with fruit trees, apples and plums. What a trial we must have been to those good people. We rode on the pig's backs and came out in spots from eating too much fruit. It served us right when we had to take Epsom Salts every morning.
It was there on a Sunday morning that we heard that war was declared and we took ourselves down the garden to the Elsan toilet to cry because my Dad was already called up as a soldier and I thought that he was going to be killed.
In all it was only a week or two later that we were sent for, put on a train to Darsham where our Mother was evacuated, with other ladies who were also pregnant, from a London Clinic. They were billeted at Darsham House.
So once again we were all separated, the two youngest being billeted with Mother and my ten year old brother and I in a row of cottages called Fox Cottages next door to each other. Such cosy little cottages and so different from our terrace house in London.
This was to be the only time during the war when I was the only child in the house. So for me my time with Mr Ford and Miss Brabbin, his housekeeper, with all the attention and care to myself, was very special. So much more so for me since at home, being the eldest, I was given the task of looking after my sister and brothers, taking them back and forth to school etc
Here was the first time that I has seen or used a water pump in the yard or a garden growing all of our own vegetables. The bedrooms were approached by ladder stairs, being situated under the roof it had a ceiling sloping right down to the floor on one side - you had to mind your head! The big bed where I slept with Miss Brabbin had a very thick feather mattress. In the mornings it had one very large dent and one small dent in it which had to be plumped up again ready for sleep. There not being any indoor bathroom or lavatory we had a chamber pot under the bed. Every night, we knelt one each side of the bed to say our prayers.
I'm afraid that my Mother went back home to have her baby after all, taking my two youngest siblings with her to London. This left only my brother and I in Darsham but we were settled in nicely in our billets. We had also been used to visiting Darsham House and Mr Parry Crooke encouraged us to come and see him and enjoy his marvellous gardens. He was great fun to talk to and helped me a lot to settle into school. Mr Parry Crooke and Mr Ford were to my brother and I like our Grandads, which we never had in our life before.
Most of the baking for the week was done by Miss Brabbin on Saturdays so that was also roast dinner day. All of the cakes, biscuits and scones being put into tins for daily needs. Sunday was church day so small new potatoes were scrubbed and a pot full left ready to cook for our dinner when we arrived home from church. Miss Brabbin always attended and walked with us to church and back every Sunday .
It was the first time that I ever had pocket money every week. Mr Ford also bought me a money box with a key to encourage me to save for things. The first things I bought was a cushion cover and a chair back which purchased from a lovely shop in the village where you could buy practically everything. Miss Brabbin showed me how to embroider them for my Mother's Christmas present.
Darsham School, which I had to attend did not impress me very favourably. It was the first time that I had seen such a small school, only two classrooms, one for the young ones and the other from around nine years to fourteen years. The ones we were used to had so many pupils that they had two classrooms for each year. I had, in the year 1939, passed my scholarship for a Girls High School to begin in September. I was very disappointed not to be going there. This, together with the fact that my brother and I knew no other children, even the evacuees in Darsham were not from our school, we had left them behind in Bruisyard, coloured my attitude and left me with rather non happy memories of both school and teacher.
It was the first time ever that I was unable to get along with a teacher, it seemed to me that I was always in trouble with Mrs Quadling. We were made very happy, playing out in the fields together, seeing grown-up films when we were taken by Rev. Maitland, a lovely man to us. Going mushrooming in the evenings and being able to eat them for breakfast -1 had never eaten mushrooms before.
The one sadness was that Mr Parry Crooke died, we really missed him and no longer had jaunts to Darsham House. With regret we were uprooted once again in 1940 and had to go back to our Mother and had a great many travels for the duration of the War. It was sad to say goodbye to all the loving care and fun.
Now, as I approach my 80th birthday, I thank God for all of the lovely experiences and Happy Memories I still have of Darsham. Thank you all for each one.
Sincerely, Joyce Brett nee Phillips.