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Article written by Daisy Clarke, presented by Karon Rice

Daisy Clarke - Evacuee

This is a photo of Daisy before she was evacuated to Rushden
Daisy in London - before being evacuated

This has come about by me meeting Dorothy Morris, and she reminded me of my mother and brother when we lived at St Mary’s Rectory with the Reverend and Mrs Green. First an insight of my mother and father: mother followed her two sisters into service for Mr and Mrs Thomas Wise, a historian to the British Museum. She trained to be a cook for them, my father was at that time a sailor serving on H.M.S. Lion which was sunk.

When my mother and father married they lived at 5 Ringwood Road, Walthamstow.

When mother was expecting me, Mr and Mrs Wise paid for her to go to a nursing home in Hampstead where I was born and named Daisy Browning.

I was nine years old when my family gathered round the wireless to hear Neville Chamberlain tell us that we were at war with Germany. Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister and had come back from Germany with no peace treaty.

I lived at 5 Ringwood Road, Walthamstow, which was in the East End of London. I attended Copperhill Lane School , not far from the River Lee. We soon had an Anderson air raid shelter in the garden, also a Morrison one that was like a cage with a top we used as a table. No bombs had fallen at this time but within weeks plans were being made for the first evacuations. My mother and father said it would be best for me to go to the countryside out of London .

Daisy climbing the steps of the slide ina playground in Walthamstow
Daisy climbing slide

We met at Copperhill Lane School, with our gas masks in a cardboard box. A label was tied on us with haversacks on our backs. Tearfully I said good bye to my mother and father and also to my baby brother Charlie. I had never been away on my own ever before and we did not know where we were going.

The Women’s Voluntary Service and Spurgeons helped with the children at the time of the evacuation. The kindness shown to us was great, my sandwiches were of egg and the drink was cold tea in a Camp Coffee bottle. We went by train that September; the weather was lovely with the sun shining through the windows of the carriages as we made our way to the country. There were fields full of golden corn which I had never seen before. We ended up at St Albans, temporarily at a big house along the Verulanium Road. The next day Mr and Mrs Foreman, who had a little boy named Henry, took me into their home at Kingsbury Ave.

Every week I had to write home on a postcard, the postage was two pence in old money. I wrote that I had some new glasses with steel frames and that Auntie had a birthday party for me and given me a new frock. I also asked if they could send me some money, as I had torn my frock when I fell over, but my sandals were still good. I wrote that the weather was good. The reason the postcards kept so well and we can still read them today is because they were written in pencil.

I became part of their lives and by now the bombing of London had started. The Blitz began in September 1941 and continued for some time when London was bombed day and night. Fighter planes called Spitfires and Hurricanes helped defend London and surrounding areas, and there were many losses on both sides. Barrage balloons were a common sight over many cities; these helped keep the Luftwaffe high in the skies making it harder for them to sight their bombs.

Father said that my mother and brother were to be evacuated from London .

This was the second stage of the evacuation; they arrived at Rushden South End School (now the Full Gospel Church). Mrs Muxlow, a local councillor and W.V.S were on hand to place them with families. Mr and Mrs Fred and Alice Sharp took them in, they had a small house in South Terrace (no longer there).

The house that we all shared in London had been hit by an incendiary bomb by the German Luftwaffe, the house was so damaged by fire my father had to move out, and went to a house in Markhouse Ave, East End of London. The East End of London suffered colossal damage at the hands of the German Luftwaffe during this time of the war, which is known as The Blitz. Whole blocks of houses came down during the bombing raids on London and surrounding areas. Where father lived at Markhouse Ave there was a massive search light on the corner, on the other side of the road was a big ack-ack gun.  My father then said he wanted me to be with my mother and brother at Rushden, but Alice and Fred had not got the room. Then my mother's friend Madge Bettles who lived at Harborough Road said that the Reverend and Mrs Green of the Rectory (now the Cloisters) wanted daily help in The Rectory. They accepted us into the rectory and we moved in.

I then went to school at Little Street, it was the Baptist Chapel. We only attended in the mornings as the Rushden children attended in the afternoons. We had school dinners which cost 4d old money and walked to a metal building in Portland road. Then we, the London children, went to The Boot and Shoe College along Rectory Road. Mr Williams was my teacher, Mrs Constable was the headmistress, Miss Kelsey was the drama teacher.

a photo of Daisy's class at her first schoolin Rushden. All the children are evacuees.
Class of evacuees with teacher Mr Williams (rear right)
Daisy is on the left-hand end of the middle row

If you can identify any of the other children here, please get in touch

The Johnson sisters stayed at the Rectory as well as us; we were all rebels, playing hide and seek all over the rectory house.

Two cockney kids in a rural rectory - a rather personal story

My brother and I were two frightened kids when we were evacuated from London ’s East End, to the comparative quiet of a small Northamptonshire town which we had never heard of. We were at a mischievous age, and very close, but we were billeted along with our mother, luckily at the rectory.

Yes we were the Brownings, same as the poet, but without the romance. The Reverend Green was a very stern man whose only manual for life was strictly the Bible.

I feel quite sure that his motivation for bearing with evacuees was more from his instruction manual than a love of his fellow human beings, but perhaps I misjudged him.

It was a privileged to live in such a large house that had fruit trees, supplies in abundance, also pears which we stored and they lasted all through the winter. Nuts for Christmas were hazel and walnut, some of these mother pickled, but we did not care for them.

I do believe we were healthier with very good teeth.

At home in London there was a different type of survival. People were urged to take allotments and grow vegetables. The slogan was “Dig For Victory.” Neighbours also had shares in rearing a pig or two. In exchange for pig food the government took one pig of a certain weight. Pig owners chose to have the pig killed by the butcher. It was around Christmas time the pig was killed. No-one had a freezer to store the pork, I do know that we had a marble slab. Nothing was wasted - you could eat everything from a pig. What a feast we shared with friends!

We did keep a few chickens and bantams; eggs were preserved in a bucket of Isinglass, which sealed the shells for months.

Food was rationed – per person we were allowed:

1 shilling and two pence worth of meat

4 oz butter

2 oz cheese

4 oz margarine

8 oz sugar

2 oz tea

3 oz sweets

1 egg

2 pints of milk

That was all!

If mother had a rabbit it lasted us a week!

Bread was not rationed until the war was over, vegetables were plentiful. We also had dried milk and dried egg, petrol was rationed. People were told to make do and mend, utility clothes were made and clothing coupons were introduced.

Comics were 2 pence old money, sherbert fountains were ½ a penny with a liquorice straw. At times, we received an extra ration of sugar to make jam, also some dried fruit to make Christmas Pudding and a cake. Two or three times a year mother queued for oranges and bananas available only to children under sixteen years of age, one pound per ration book.

What a marvellous manager our mother was, everyone was careful to use every scrap of food.

I also remember doing French Knitting with spare wool and nails, four of them in a cotton reel. Film matinees were 2 pence; furniture had a utility sign stamped on it. In addition, you had to have dockets. We made beads from wall paper; also, we were only allowed four inches of water for a bath.

The children of London attended school only in the mornings in a chapel we had our own teachers, so afternoons we had time on our hands until the Boot and Shoe College came to our resources. Then we went all day.

Daisy in school production.
Daisy in a school production. She is the second child in the pointed hat. The teacher is Mrs Kelsey.

If you can identify any of the other children here, please get in touch

We were rebels playing hide and seek all over the Rectory House, sliding down the banisters causing havoc, often we were called to the study after tea. Then the Reverend came up with a good idea he gave us a tin each to collect the caterpillars from his cabbages. He then gave us one halfpenny (old money) for each one. Always he paid up so we had pocket money.

I met my brother one day holding in his hand a little brown mouse, he said “help me set up a business we can breed mice then sell them to our friends at school”. We looked it all up in a book from the library, a mouse is a small rodent they have a lot of litters also they interbreed. Well the production line was going fine. Then we went to London for the weekend to see father. We decided to bring the mice into the house from the stables as it was winter and very cold. Alas when we came back after our weekend in London seeing Father, we both panicked, our mouse family had escaped they had got out, we looked everywhere we found some but not all of them. I told mother, the Reverend had to be informed, he called in the council, an exterminator man came, it was a death sentence for our family of rodents and not much profit was made from our venture. So once more a visit to the study after tea.

My brother made a guy, put it in an old pram and put it outside the main gates to the Rectory with a large sign: Penny for a Guy. Shoe workers from the Co-op Shoe Factory were most generous but alas, the Bishop visited the Reverend Green and spied Charlie. The lecture in the study this time was about begging.

Then we even decided to make our own fireworks, but the Chemist would not sell us the saltpetre. We even tried to rope mother in but she told the Reverend so our venture into fireworks failed, another trip to the study.

Our house in East London, Walthamstow to be exact, was Incendiary bombed; that was a fire bomb, everything smelt like fireworks. Then came the VI rockets that caused colossal damage wherever they fell.

Later came the V2 rockets known as the doodle bugs, a Flying bomb, a small pilot less plane with an explosive on board, when it ran out of fuel it would fall to earth causing colossal damage and loss of life.

In London people would shelter in the underground stations taking food, flasks of tea and blankets, sleeping on the station platforms.

For the life of me I can’t recollect any sort of trauma, we accepted that this was the way of life at the time.

It did have an emotional power for us some of them connected to the experience of the war - an unforgettable event in the lives of all who lived through it. It seems such a pity not to remember with pleasure and gratitude the details of lives that have been rich in all sorts of good things such as games and jokes, clothes and food, also good friends and events. That apart we have met nothing but kindness, and surely gained from our experiences. Mercifully no one counselled us after the war had ended. We heard sad news of the loss of neighbours and loved ones. My brother and I have such a lot to thank Northamptonshire for as it saved our lives.

Many of these memories are very sweet, all mixed up as they are with some of the wonder of being a child, so many lovely memories of our parents. We do not have to stay in the past, just visit it occasionally.

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