Tuesday, May 10, 2011

History: Britain's evacuees - with a label tied around their necks, they made their journey into the unknown

This year will mark the 66th anniversary of the end of WWII - but there are those who still vividly remember at what cost the victory was gained. At 79, James Roffey sometimes comes to the street where he was born and where his family lived -- until war broke out.

Frightened and forced to evacuate to the countryside, James was just eight when his life was changed forever. "You were sent to school every morning with the things you were told to take, with enough sandwiches and things to last you for the day, and that was it -- only to get to school and be told, no evacuation today, and you were sent home again. And then one day they didn't say that. We went to school, and things were different. They started tying luggage labels on us," recollects the former evacuee.

With hundreds of others, including a sister and brother, James walked from school to his local station. Their parents were not allowed to walk with them. Parents were issued with a list of things their children could take with them when they are evacuated. They all had a little suitcase, and in it they were only allowed to put a spare pair of house shoes, a change of underwear, a towel and a handkerchief, a toothbrush and a comb; they had to take their own mug and a plate and cutlery, and pajamas.

With only that, a label tied around their necks and the ubiquitous gas mask, they made their journey into the unknown