Book tells stories of Lowestoft’s wartime evacuees

Dagenham evacuees arrive at Lowestoft. Their story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voi

Dagenham evacuees arrive at Lowestoft. Their story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voices from the Past: Britains Wartime Evacuees - Credit: Archant

Thousands of children were evacuated from London to Lowestoft during the Second World War but all that changed just a year later amid fears the east coast was a target for German invasion.

Faith and Stella Shoesmith, who were evacuated to Derbyshire from Lowestoft. Their story features in

Faith and Stella Shoesmith, who were evacuated to Derbyshire from Lowestoft. Their story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voices from the Past: Britains Wartime Evacuees - Credit: Archant

A new book by Gillian Mawson - entitled Voices from the Past: Britain's Wartime Evacuees - includes the stories of the youngsters sent both to and from the town as their parents tried to keep them safe from falling bombs.

Mrs Mawson spent eight years interviewing evacuees from across the country and attendeded the Lowestoft evacuees reunion last year.

She said: 'I do get emotional when I hear their stories. The happy stories set me off as much as the sad ones.'

In September 1939, thousands of children, together with teachers and young mothers, were evacuated to Lowestoft for safety.

Geoffrey Durrant as a child. Hid story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voices from the

Geoffrey Durrant as a child. Hid story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voices from the Past: Britains Wartime Evacuees - Credit: Archant


You may also want to watch:


Among the tales in the book is Derek Trayler, who was sent from Dagenham to Lowestoft.

In the book, he remembers walking to Dagenham docks with hundreds of children and boarding a paddle steamer to Lowestoft.

Most Read

He said: 'It was as if some modern Pied Piper was luring away all the children from the borough.'

By late May 1940, Germany had invaded France and there were fears that Britain's east coast might be invaded.

Marjorie Parker, now Marjorie Chilvers, with her parents. Her story features in a book by Gillian Ma

Marjorie Parker, now Marjorie Chilvers, with her parents. Her story features in a book by Gillian Mawson entitled Voices from the Past: Britains Wartime Evacuees - Credit: Archant

On June 2, 1940, more than 3,000 children were sent by train from Lowestoft to Derbyshire and Nottingham.

Alan Boast lived in a children's home at the time and remembers his journey in great detail.

He said: 'We were taken to the front of the station where ladies were waiting for us. They had lots of labels and wrote our name, school and age on each one and tied or pinned it to our clothes.'

He added: 'Major Humphrey, the mayor, spoke to every child that left that day. He told us that the honour of Lowestoft rested on our shoulders, and we had to be well behaved.'

Marjorie Parker and her sister were evacuated from Lowestoft to Talbot House in Glossop - a grand mansion owned by Lady Partington. She had five maids, a cook, two gardeners, a chauffeur and three Rolls Royces.

Marjorie said: 'We lived in the maids' side of the house and the maids - Nellie, Muriel, Bertha, Ellen and Ethel - made new clothes for us and gave us hugs.'

Geoffrey Durrant formed a special bond with his wartime foster mother and, 68 years after leaving her home, felt duty bound to repair and restore her grave.

Mr Durrant was evacuated from Lowestoft to Glossop with his brother Malcolm, where an elderly widow called Mrs Booth took great care of them.

Their mother continued to correspond with Mrs Booth after her sons returned to Lowestoft and, in 1946, she received a letter to say that she had died.

Mr Durrant returned to Glossop in 2008 for an evacuee reunion and began a three-year quest to find Mrs Booth's grave.

In the book, Mr Durrant, who died in Janaury, said: 'The grave was in a sorry state so I asked a local stonemason to repair and restore it. It was a labour of love for a wonderful lady.'

However, not all of the evacuees were treated well in their wartime homes.

Faith and Stella Shoesmith, aged six and nine respectively, endured two years of misery in Glossop in the home of Mrs Jessie Woods. The sisters were made to clean all of the bedrooms and polish the hall floor on their hands and knees. Parcels of sweets sent from their mother never reached them.

Faith said: 'Our one victory was that we found a large square tin of biscuits hidden behind Mrs Woods' wardrobe. Every week when we cleaned her bedroom we helped ourselves to one biscuit.'

Lowestoft evacuees hold annual meetings and a plaque has been placed at Lowestoft Railway Station to ensure their story is not forgotten.

The book, which is published by Frontline Books, costs £19.99.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter