Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

04 September 2009

The Evacuee Child: World War Two

When World War Two broke out I was evacuated with my school to get away from London and the expected bombing - which eventually came in the form of The Blitz. I was taken to a hall at Worplesdon, in rural Surrey.

There, all the children were split up into individuals and then allocated to local foster parents. Not yet seven years old, I had never
before been separated from my parents; I was utterly lost and frightened. Some years later I wrote some poems about my childhood and this was one of them...

There I stood
Labeled like a shop-bought shrub.
Bemused, confused,
With gas mask slung over shoulder
By string
In a cardboard box
With 'TOP' embossed on the lid.
(It was never used.
But everywhere I walked
The mask went with me
'Til it perished, who knows, perhaps
On a heap of wobbling rubber and muck metal!)

I wet my pants in fear
And shivered, lost,
Regardless of the friendly, droning tone
Of billeting officer
Lost, so lost.
Solicitous faces
Seen through a blur of tears.

'Mrs Dayborn'll take this one.'
They drove me in an Austin Seven Ruby
Along the unfamiliar rural lanes.
Holly and hawthorn now replaced
The edges where I'd known familiar brick.
I still remember now
The vivid excitement of a close-up cow!
Of a green waste of fields
Trimmed with skeletal elms,
Sky speckled with grating crows,
Blackbird and thrush; lamb and horse
Eyeing the small intruder from the town,
Intimidating me with silent country eyes
Keeping their peace and seeming deeply wise.

'This is your boy.' (I heard bucolic burr.)
'He's a bit of a sniveler!'
I felt ashamed and hurt
For was I not a Tough, a townie kid?
I looked into her face
The hazel eyes
Looked with compassion from the simple face.
Her arms reached out
And only then I sagged
Sobbing, relieved
To bury my grateful head
In the warmth of her apron
The journey done.

© DON DONOVAN. (PHOTO © William Vandivert ex internet)



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By Don Donovan