Home Front heroes

THIS weekend sees an Ipswich event to celebrate heroes of the Home Front and look at the effects that evacuation had on young children.Audrey Alder was evacuated from London during the Second World War but her time in Suffolk provided her with some of the happiest memories of her life.

By Tracey Sparling

THIS weekend sees an Ipswich event to celebrate heroes of the Home Front and look at the effects that evacuation had on young children.

Audrey Alder was evacuated from London during the Second World War but her time in Suffolk provided her with some of the happiest memories of her life. ANDREW CLARKE reports.

AUDREY Alder lives in Guildford in Surrey today, but a large part of her heart remains in Suffolk.

During the Second World War she and her sister Eileen were evacuated from London four times, had 13 changes of school, but returned to London at various intervals when homesickness grew too much or they felt unloved by their host families.

Their last posting out into the East Anglian countryside proved to be the best of all and gave her one of the happiest experiences of her life. Her trip to Suffolk began in 1944, just as the flying bombs started dropping on London.

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She said: “I was 14 and remember the war being very intense at the time. It was early January when we gathered with other tearful children at Liverpool Street Station, armed with our gasmasks, condensed milk and chocolate. There were children arriving with the bare essentials, mostly looking very sad, but fortunately we were very excited at the prospect of taking our first holiday in the countryside.

“My mother had somehow acquired a length of parachute silk and I decided with my mother's permission to make petticoats for my sister and me. These were to come in very handy later on.

“I decided that if we appeared well dressed, my sister and I would be accepted into better homes - quite shrewd for a 14 year old!”

She and Eileen were billeted in Brandeston where they were placed in the charge of the Women's Voluntary Service, marched two-by-two to the village hall and told firmly to be quiet.

Audrey said: “A stream of village women arrived, walked around the hall and were told to choose their children. I remember a slight feeling of superiority, which I knew was wrong even at that age, but there were a lot of pathetic looking children amongst us with runny noses and looking so sad.

“Also, by now it was becoming a bit of an adventure and I had a feeling of grown up responsibility. I quickly scanned the crowd of women and decided who should pick us. I told Eileen to smile at the appropriate moment and lifted our skirts just sufficiently to show our new pretty petticoats and bingo, the lady of my choice obliged and picked us both. I knew those petticoats would do the trick.”

They both took to life in the countryside and were very happy at Office Farm in Brandeston.

“We had a very large garden with a stream running through it - a wonderful experience for us Londoners. We were taken in by Mrs Violet Monk and her Land Army daughter Pamela.

“Ben, the gardener, told us all about the countryside and with Pamela's help we formed a youth group and set about producing our own play The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, based on Alice in Wonderland. We even got a paying audience and sent the proceeds of our performance to Dr Barnardos.”

They went to Felixstowe to stage a second performance. This was then followed by the pantomime Cinderella.

Even chores like stripping the cows after milking was an exciting new experience for London girls: “Village life was a complete contrast to life in London - tractors going along country lanes, open fields to run and play in and at the end of the summer we picked rosehips from the hedgerows and filled large sacks for some pocket money. These rosehips were turned into rosehip syrup for small children.”

But there were the occasional treats: “Half way to school each day we passed an American army camp and as we rode by they would throw us packets of chewing gum and they used to invite all the evacuees onto the air base for ice cream teas. They were a real treat. My sister and I were at Framlingham School and loved it there.”

The winter of 1944 was severe in Suffolk, and their parents who had come to visit for Christmas had to stay in a local pub because the roads were snowbound.

But not everyone stayed in contact with their parents. She said: “One fellow evacuee in Brandeston whose name was Dora had no contact with her parents throughout her stay and I believe actually stayed on in the village after the end of the war. I would love to know if she is still there.”


Do you have a story like Audrey's? Call the Suffolk Records Office on 01474 584541 or 01284 352352.

Do you know Dora? Write to Finding Friends, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

Suffolk Records Office is holding an open day at Ipswich County Library, in Northgate Street on Sunday from 10am to 4pm to commemorate Home Front Heroes and to look at the effects that evacuation had on the young children.

It will include activities for all the family like storytelling sessions, performances, letters and photographs. Material relating to the Suffolk Regiment will also be on display.

Youngsters are invited to enter the Home Front Heroes writing competition, which involves putting yourself in the shoes of an evacuee and writing either a letter home to your parents, a diary, a poem, an interview or a newspaper article about the evacuation. The maximum length is 500 words.

Prizes will be given in two age ranges: 8-10 years and 11-13 years. The closing date is April 21.

See www.suffolk.gov.uk/RecordOffice for an entry form, or visit the records office or library.