"Our dear evacuees"
The writing on this memorial stone in a local village burial ground is hard to decipher now but the clasped hands cannot be mistaken, On closer examination it can be seen that one hand emerges from a cuff-linked uniform jacket firmly to grip a limper hand that is encircled by a woolly sleeve.
Above can be read the legend In Loving Memory of Our Dear Evacuees Who Were Blitzed During the Battle of Britain 1940. The story behind this is a curious one.
We know that multitudes of children were dispatched from London to safer parts of Britain (I blipped about it here) but the ages of these individuals, all women, ranged from 64 to 94. Like many of the child evacuees they mostly came the East End of London.
The story is too long to tell at length here but some years ago a local historian and blogger, Sue George, came upon this headstone and decided to investigate the mystery hinted at here. What she discovered was this: when a local landowner and Air Commodore offered his nearby mansion for use in the war effort. The Salvation Army, trying to support victims of the Blitz, took it over to accommodate a dozen or so old women whose homes had been destroyed by bombs. Despite being uprooted in later life it seems they coped with being transplanted to the deep countryside of West Wales and were well looked after in a friendly contented atmosphere. That they all died here during the war years is hardly surprising given that they were already infirm and must have experienced extreme trauma.
Sue George did a fantastic piece of research not only identifying all the evacuees but also tracing their living descendants who provided background information about their relatives. (For anyone who wants to read it in full the story starts here and continues in another six instalments, signposted top right. ) As a result she brought back to 'life' these forgotten people and in many cases reunited them with their families.
[Very sadly, Sue, who was a friend of mine, has since died. Her blog, about the immediate local area in which she had her roots, was a model of its kind.]