Daughter pens mum’s memories of her life as a wartime child evacuee

Crawley author Barbara Cox (right) and her mother Gwen who was evacuated from Newcastle in the war. Pictured with with Gwen's surrogate parents' grand-daughter Hilary - submitted by Mrs Cox
Crawley author Barbara Cox (right) and her mother Gwen who was evacuated from Newcastle in the war. Pictured with with Gwen's surrogate parents' grand-daughter Hilary - submitted by Mrs Cox
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A Crawley author has used her latest book to tell her mother’s story of fleeing town to countryside in the Second World War.

In ‘When the War is Over’, Barbara Fox from Southgate has documented the touching story of how her mother Gwenda and uncle Doug were evacuated from Newcastle in 1940 and taken in by a loving couple in the Lake District.

Brother and sister Doug and Gwenda Brady (now Gofton) aged 3 and 6 - picture courtesy of Gwenda's daughter Barbara Cox who has written a box on the family's story

Brother and sister Doug and Gwenda Brady (now Gofton) aged 3 and 6 - picture courtesy of Gwenda's daughter Barbara Cox who has written a box on the family's story

Barbara, 54, said: “Gwenda was six years old in July 1940 when she and her older brother, Doug, arrived in the village of Bampton.

“They were the only children left in the church hall when the wife of the local headmaster arrived.

“As the mother of two sons, Mrs Thornton had no intention of taking a little girl but was persuaded to do so when she heard that the boy had the same name as her husband.”

She added: “To imagine these kids that nobody wanted, but it did have a happy ending. They ended up having these wonderful surrogate parents and they are people she did keep in touch with the rest of her life.”

Barbara pulled the stories together by interviewing her mum, meeting her childhood friends and researching.

She said: “Gwenda has got an amazing memory, and it probably helps that she still visits Bampton today, staying twice a year in a cottage nearby. The village hasn’t changed all that much and she sometimes bumps into old school friends from 75 years ago.”

The family launched the book there last year and were invited back to the old family school house home.

Barbara not only learnt of her mum’s memories, but also the community spirit of wartime Britain.

She said: “I think one of the things that had an impact on me when writing the book was how everyone really did muck in and do their bit - adults as well as children - during the war.

“Everyone could do something to help, whether it was knitting scarves and socks for soldiers, sending supplies to bombed out areas, growing vegetables and picking berries in the effort to produce homegrown food.

“As a child I seem to remember that certain people - friends, grandparents - had a reputation for ‘always talking about the war’, but now it seems quite understandable to me - it must have been a real opportunity for people to feel that they were doing something valuable.”

This is the second book Barbara has written from her mum’s viewpoint. The first was ‘Bedpans and Bobby Socks’ about her adventures in America.

‘When the War Is Over’, published by Sphere, is available from bookshops and online retailers priced £7.99. It is also an e-book.