Mistral. Journal of the Mersea Island Society. 2002 Page 8.
Evacuees by Helen Searle ( HMS )
Helen Searle is a former resident of Mersea who now lives in Cambridge although still maintaining her contacts with the Island. In the 2000 issue of Mistral we featured an article under her pen-name HMS describing the arrival of evacuees on Mersea in 1939 at the outbreak of World War Two. She has now penned a sequel which illustrates quite poignantly the effect the enforced uprooting from familiar surroundings had on some of those evacuated. Fortunately, her story has a happy ending.
Our evacuees were two little girls aged eight and nine from East Ham in the East End of London. Though unrelated, their mothers were close friends and came to visit them regularly at our home, expressing gratitude for what we were trying to do for them.
The two girls were very different. One, Goldie, was happy, eager to try everything new and to make friends with every one. She had appropriately fair hair and a pleasant, smiling face. She surprised our puritan, Victorian father by climbing on his lap and talking to him. He was quite taken aback, for with his prudish attitude to anything that suggested familiarity, especially between the sexes, he didn't know how to respond. However, the child's obvious innocence and genuine friendliness broke down his inhibitions and elicited a response quite foreign to us, his own girls, whom he never invited to sit on his knee nor put at our ease when we were talking to him as he was now doing with this stranger. It was only much later that we knew his own strong feelings for the opposite sex, disallowed by the rigid religion he professed, made him keep us three at arm's length as he was afraid he would go too far if he ever showed even normal fatherly affection for us.
The other child, Eunice, was upset at being left with a strange family, even in the company of her schoolfriend Goldie. She did not make friends with us or anyone else in this unfamiliar place. She was frightened and it showed in her eyes and affected all her behaviour. Our stairs were normal and comfortable to climb and descend, except for the right-angle turn where feet, especially young ones, had to stop running and walk the wide corner step before continuing. In her nervousness, Eunice couldn't adapt quickly to this and fell down the lower half of the stairs. She cried hysterically and wouldn't let any of us comfort her, her white face showing anger and fright. I was to learn the reasons sixty years later.
Both children were registered at our local village school like other evacuees, going and coming every day, taking sandwiches for lunch which they made themselves, using a variety of fillings provided by "Mummy Clark", as they called her. The expected happened at school, Goldie able to profit, enjoying it and fitting in, Eunice often crying and unable to make anything useful of the experience.
Our mother made friends with their mothers and kept up writing to them every Christmas, long after the girls had gone home again, about a year after arriving, to be re-evacuated to a safer place in Somerset while we on the East Coast were mining the beaches against possible invasion.
Sixty one years later I wrote to Goldie, using my mother's old address book, never thinking she would still be at the same address after so long, but the very next day she rang me. We were both delighted to hear each other and arranged a visit. Eunice's husband drove them here from Basildon and Rayleigh and then discreetly disappeared, while we filled our time ...
Continued on next page MIS_2002_011
Date: January 2002
Photo: Mersea Museum
Image ID MIS_2002_010
Category 2 War-->World War 2
This image is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection.