diary · family · History

Nan’s Diary: Evacuation – billet #2

Nan’s Dorking billet in the 1980s

When Nan got to Dorking, all the children were lined up outside the council offices so that they could be chosen by those agreeing to take evacuees in. She says:

‘Can you imagine people walking up and down to see which of the children they preferred?

Some liked pretty little girls – that left me out – they also didn’t eat so much, and some preferred boys. They looked at the clothes we wore, what sort of background we came from and some gave consideration to the size of the family group. I was one of the last to go as I had my younger brother with me.

In the end, I went with a girl of my own age from school, Joyce, and her brother, who was about the same age as mine, went with him to another billet.

They were lucky and went with a very nice family in the same street. Joyce and I had quite a terrible billet with a couple who were then in their 60s and real skinflints. Like so many people who took evacuees, all they were interested in was how little they were able to spend of the evacuation allowance they were given to feed and accommodate us.

Parents often sent or brought food to their children, which meant going without rations themselves, but unfortunately these extra treats often did not reach us.

The winter of 1939/40 was very hard with a great deal of snow and ice, and extremely low temperatures. In our billet, there was very little heating and I cannot remember removing my clothes for about four months of the time that I was there. I only got washed in bits and pieces. Needless to say, a hot bath was non-existent, and in the bedroom where Joyce and I slept, there was only a double bed, a wash stand with a jug of water and a basin to wash in. We had a jug of hot water once a day, so we had to make up our minds whether to have a hot wash in the morning or at night. For weeks, there were many degrees of frost at night so, in the morning, the condensation on the windows was frozen into starry patterns and the water in the jug was a solid lump of ice. We slept in all our clothes except for our shoes and at times we wore hats, coats and gloves as well.

The food was awful but we ate it because we were so hungry. I can’t remember what we did about doing our homework but we often went down the road to the boys’ billet where they had a lovely fire and hot drinks.’

By Christmas, both Nan and Joyce had had enough and returning home for Christmas was a welcome relief. Nan moved onto another billet in January 1940…



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