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John Warriner of Colchester, 2010, by email
Memories of an Evacuee

Bomb damage at Alfred Street School

I was an Infant pupil at Canterbury Road School in Colchester and, because it was a Garrison town and a centre for heavy engineering (Davey-Paxmans made submarine engines), it was considered a prime target for enemy attack, so the Schools were given the opportunity to evacuate pupils and families to safer areas.

My school and the families that chose to leave were sent to Rushden. We spent our first night away from home in a large hall, where we were give a supper of tea and hard tack biscuits and a space with two camp beds to sleep.

in 1939
John with his teddy bear in 1939 shortly before being evacuated
In the morning my Mother was given a contact for accommodation. I don't remember all the ins and outs but I do recall Mum being very upset, after apparently being rudely turned away by the woman who answered the door at the address we had been given.

We were sitting on a bench and Mum was crying when an elderly lady who I later came to know as "Auntie Carr" asked Mum "what is the matter?" Mum explained, and Auntie Carr said "you both come home with me" and just simply took us in. Mrs Carr, was a widow who shared her home in Purvis Road with her daughter and son-in-law, Ivy and Ted Hanger. (I only know this because Mum kept in touch with Auntie Carr and Ivy long after the war finished)

The children evacuated from Colchester were kept together where possible with teachers from their own schools. I was sent to Alfred Street and joined a class of rising five year olds, with, I believe, a Mrs Dibell.

I don't remember much about the school only that I used to walk to and fro as it wasn't far from where we were staying.

We had regular air raid practice and I believe one or two real air raid warnings but, on the morning of October the 3rd there was no warning. Whether our teacher heard an aircraft I don't know but she rang the bell in her desk and said get under your desks. I cant recall any sound of an explosion only that I was covered in dust and had a few minor cuts from flying glass.

Mum was with Mrs Carr when a neighbour called her to say that the factory where her daughter Ivy worked had been bombed and that the school opposite (Alfred Street) had been hit Mum rushed to the school and she said was told by an ARP Warden that she couldn't go in to the building. She apparently said "try and stop me" marched in found me and took me back to Purvis Road.

I was left still covered in dust playing in front of the fire place with a box of big wooden reels that Ted had brought in from the shoe factory. Auntie Carr, after finding that her family was safe, called her Doctor to come and check me over. My only apparent injuries were some superficial cuts above the hair line from glass fragments although the Doctor told Mum that I would probably have nightmares and may show signs of delayed shock, all I knew was I didn't want to go back to that school again.

John & wife Pat with granddaughters in 2008
John with wife Pat and granddaughters in 2008
Immediately after the raid there was a news blackout - no phones - no mail, so, although Mum had written to my father the evening after the raid, the letter was held at the post office and he learnt what had happened by a round about route.

Dad worked in the machine shop at Davey-Paxmans and was the shop steward. Sometime in the week following the raid he was approached at work by a workmate inquiring how he could obtain a "sub" on his wages. When he asked "why?", he was told that the man wanted the rail fare to Rushden for his daughter's funeral as she had been killed in an air raid on Alfred Street School.

Dad was understandably upset at hearing the news in that manner, and he wrote Mum a "stinking letter" (her words) demanding to know why she had not written to tell him I was OK, but had to eat his words when the letter Mum had written eventually arrived. Shortly after this Dad came up to Rushden and brought us back home to Colchester. Auntie Carr didn't want us to go, and tried hard to convince Mum and Dad that we would be safer staying with her.

Mum kept in touch regularly with Auntie Carr (who re-married after the war to near neighbour) and after her death, with her daughter Ivy who also sadly passed on a year or so before Mum and Dad

Footnote - I wish I had kept Mums address book it would have filled in another blank - Mrs Carr's address.

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