A short story by my Dad
Please Take Home A Small Stranger By
Jimmy was small for his age and really quite skinny. Apart from a few days at his Grandmother's house in the country he had had no real peace in his life. As a severe chronic asthmatic, he had spent hours struggling for his life's breathe and it had left its mark. He was still of school age but his bad health and the bombing hadn't improved things for him. It would be only four years before he would be thrust out to work so that he could make a small contribution to an ailing home economy. It was decided that if he was to grow old at all he would have to leave home with the next batch of evacuee children to be taken far away from the harassment of war.
They were to meet at North Street Junior school where buses would take all these hundreds of children of all ages, shapes and sizes to an unknown destination. At least it was unknown to all the mums and some dads who had come to say goodbye to the bewildered objects of this mass exodus.
Each Child carried their own case filled with the clothes which matched the list supplied by the authorities. One pair of boots for boys, one over coat, three pairs of socks two shirts, three pairs of underpants and so on. Tied to each small lapel was a label giving its bearer's name, an age and its school. Some of the schools teachers had agreed to go with the children and each small party was assigned to its teacher leader.
Jimmy's teacher was Miss Milne, a quiet spoken young woman who was well liked by all the kids. She understood that young Jimmy wasn't the healthiest of lads and somehow managed to be somewhere close by most of the time.
The children were told to leave their cases a pile so that they could be loaded with their owners on the buses which were to take them to the station. Goodbyes were said and tears were shed. Neither children nor their parents knew whether or not they would ever meet again, for this was the time of the V2 Rockets when at night whole families disappeared in the piles of rubble which were once their homes. Some of the pain of leaving home and loved ones was offset by the excitement of going away on a train, something rarely done in this time of war.
The convoy of red buses soon arrived at the local railway station. The train was waiting. But first each child had to locate and retrieve its case and take it with them on to the train. For Jimmy this was a formidable task, but with his lungs bursting he somehow struggled enough to deposit his case on to the luggage rack. The compartment was soon filled with then children all wedged five aside like cheap cigarettes squashed into a tiny packet on to two seats each designed to carry three adults in luxury.
Many of the children still desperately clung to their gas masks, slung around their necks on a piece of string, each in its little cardboard box. The others most treasured possession was a bag containing their two sandwiches and an apple which was to last them for the journey. During most of the six hour journey the children slept, ate their food or drank the watery orange drink provided by two visits from a controlling teacher.
As the train pulled into Snowhill station nobody had any idea where they were. The unwashed, thine and bedraggled groups were ushered on to double decker buses and dispensed across the City of Birmingham. Jimmy with his group of a bout fifty children found themselves in College Road School in Sparkhill, although they at that time still didn't know where they were. Rows of mattresses had been laid on the floor of the school assembly hall and that's where they were to sleep. Each covered by a single rough blanket. The floor felt hard through the slim mattress and the night was cold but at least this was a night where Adolf Hitler's cronies didn't break up your nights sleep and send you scurrying to the air raid shelters at the bottom of the garden.
Throughout the following day, Sunday, Strange men and women came and selected the child they wanted to foster for 10 shillings and 6 pence a week. Then with their forlorn acquisitions just walked away and they were never seen again. Jimmy was very homesick and continually crying; nobody took any notice. By early evening he and a few other children were still at school when a very motherly lady spotted him and after trying hard to reconcile him, she collected his small case and took home to meet her family.
Mum Lilley as she was later known, understood his plight. From that day on until the end of the war Jimmy was loved, nursed through illness and am accident, taken on holiday and treated as one of her family. Two weeks after VE day she took Jimmy back to his own family and they said their goodbyes. Jimmy never forgot that he was the luckiest of all the evacuees and carries the memories of those war time days into his old age,
Alas the lovely lady, "Our Mum", is no longer with us but is remembered for her love, compassion and understanding for a small lonely boy far away from home.
This was what happened to him during the second world war.
This was one of the last stories he wrote before his death on 31 Oct 2010