Thursday, 9 January 2014

Wartime memories sought

A Christmas party for evacuee children during World War II. In the first four days of September 1939, approximately 3,000,000 people - mostly children - were moved from the cities to places of safety in small towns and villages in what was known officially as Operation Pied Piper

No, not World War I for once, though maybe all this talk of the Great War centenary has stirred up childhood memories of the disturbance to family life that conflict can cause, wherever and whenever it occurs.

Beverly, from Paphos in Cyprus, has emailed me on behalf of her father who will be 80 in February 2014. With his home threatened by enemy bombing raids during World War II six-year-old Royston Harry Williams was evacuated in 1940 together with his brother to Budleigh Salterton and remained there for four years.

Many former evacuees still have bad memories of that time. Enforced family separations took place in an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty with most children unaware of their destination and not knowing if they would ever return home.  But Royston was fortunate.  “He has golden memories of the place,” writes Beverly. “His dream is to revisit the town to see the houses where he stayed.”

Royston stayed in two houses in Budleigh. One was close to the railway station, he remembers, but he doesn't remember names too well. It was close to a church and a bank and a chemist’s shop. He thinks that he was accommodated by a Mrs E.M. Daniel for most of the time, while his brother stayed at a house in Knowle Road.

If you can identify the house or the family who looked after Royston or his brother please email and I will pass on the information to his wife and daughters. A birthday celebration in Budleigh is what the family are hoping for.  “We want to make his dream come true,” says Beverly.

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