Memories of evacuees who invaded classrooms and left with new accents

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During the Second World War, some 1.5million children were evacuated from the cities to the safety of the countryside.

Horsham families were among those who opened their doors to the frightened youngsters, giving them a home until they could return to their parents once the war ended.

Being faced with an influx of new children must have been a confusing time for the boys and girls of the town.

No doubt new friends and new enemies were made!

West Sussex Library Service has spoken to a number of evacuees as well as former country children whose homes suddenly became a lot more crowded.

One Horsham woman, identified only as Mrs A, recalled: “I can remember, probably around late 1941/1942, seeing these evacuees come round the corner virtually, with an escort, hand in hand.

“And they knocked on people’s doors and, next door to us, she had an evacuee.

“He was called Albert – that’s stuck in my mind.

“And poor Albert, my mother said, he had an awful time where he was billeted.

“I don’t know the reasons why but my mother used to say he wasn’t having a very good time.

“I remember going back to Denne Road School, so it must have been after I was seven, one dinner time and there were all these children in the classroom, occupying all our chairs and they had come with their teacher.

“I can’t remember if it was Winchester or Manchester but one of those places.

“I think the reason I remember that is because I was told to sit on the floor and I said I didn’t want to get my knickers dirty!

“I was told to sit down anyway.

“We had this teacher who came with them who we absolutely hated, as children do, called Miss Palk.

“We used to call her Miss Pork, of course.

“We had to learn this dire song.

“It was either called Farewell Manchester or Farewell Winchester. I don’t know which it was.

“In spite of the crowded classes, we still all managed to pass the scholarship and go to the high school.”

Another woman, who was evacuated from London with her brother, remembered having her own bedroom in her new home which she said was “a big shock” as she used to sleep in her mum and dad’s bedroom.

While history has shown some children were not treated well, she said many of them “had such lovely people they didn’t want to come home”.

When the war ended, many of the youngsters faced the prospect of returning to a London and years of rebuilding, to families they no longer knew and where money was scarce.

The former evacuee said the feeling was they would be better off left where they were.

But go home they did - and many parents and grandparents were in for a shock when their young Cockneys arrived.

She said: “When we did come back we all came back with different accents.

“Half of them were speaking Welsh and some speaking Liverpudlian and all sorts.

“I went home with this Sussex accent.”

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