Evacuees in Chesham
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After the experience of the Spanish Civil War, the British government had in place an evacuation programme in the event of war. When war did break out in September 1939 it was activated with 800,000 schoolchildren over the age of five evacuated (without their mothers) and another 520,000 with their mothers.

Evacuees were compulsorily billeted in those homes which had room. Bert Darvell,in his contribution to an evening held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, (the video of which was kindly lent to the department by Keith Fletcher), drily commented on the perils of leaving your home in that first week in September, 1939: "One Sunday morning I went out and left my new wife to cook Sunday lunch and when I got back she had two children".

When the anticipated waves of German bombers did not appear, many parents brought their children back - only to go through it all again in September, 1940 when the Blitz started in earnest.

There was, sometimes, tension between evacuees and those upon they were billeted. Chesham was no exception and the Bucks Examiner reflected this in its coverage of the issue. Click on Examiner Letters on the left here to see an exchange of letters on the matter.

Keith Gomm, who lived in Chesham as a boy during the war, has written to add his memories. Click on the link. Keith Gomm

Sheila Shear was evacuated to Chesham from London as a nine-year-old, with her parents and four year-old sister. She has written a very moving and detailed account of her experience. Chesham, she writes, was chosen for no other reason than that her father had been evacuated there during the Great War. What makes her account particularly interesting is that Sheila's family was Jewish and her host, Harry Mayo, a Christian. The mix of religious custom was to prove a mutually beneficial one. Click on the link. Sheila Shear's story

Deidre Britten was not an evacuee. As a Chesham resident, she had no reason to be evacuated but her home in Eskdale Avenue was clearly big enough to take in two evacuees as she tells in this extract (4mins 30secs), on the left. Just get your mouse pointer to hover on the picture and then click on the triangle to start the film.

In the second video extract (6 mins), on the right, Kath Dolling talks of her experiences as an evacuee to Chesham. She started her life an eight-year-old evacuee in the splendid home, complete with servants, of Sir Cyril and Lady Kirkpatrick in Burton's Lane, Little Chalfont. However, the Phoney War resulted in Kath Dolling returning to Penge to be with her parents in March 1940. When the real Blitz started, Lady Kirkpatrick already had new evacuees and she could not go to them.

Reggie Gray and Gordon Eayres in two interview clips (2 mins and 10 mins) don't recall any animosity towards evacuues. Reggie quite happily played with them and Gordon taught them - though Gordon does add that their East London, 'streetwise' nature was a sharp contrast with Chesham's children.