About 70 members and their guests had an excellent Christmas lunch at the Links Hotel, followed by a talk by Mr Christopher Brooks, entitled “East Coast Evacuees”. He mentioned that 1990 had seen the 50th anniversary of one of the main evacuations of children from the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts due to fears of possible invasion. In fact, there were several evacuations known by this region – including one of children coming to this country. He explained how, before the war, in 1938-9 many Jewish children from Germany had been brought through the Kindertransport, to Dovercourt holiday camp near Harwich, from where many were taken up to Lowestoft.
Christopher also told how there were three waves of evacuation from within Britain. The first phase occurred in the lead-up to the war. Then, because it seemed to be a “phony war”, the evacuees started returning home. The second wave occurred when the bombing started. In the third wave in 1944, when the “doodlebugs” started falling on London, a scheme was started for children to go (if registered) to the US, Australia or Canada. This scheme was stopped when two of the ships involved were torpedoed – with all surviving the sinking of the Volendam, but sadly with few survivors from the Benares.
With all evacuations, there was always the question “to go, or not to go?” with stress and tears for both children and parents if the decision was taken to evacuate. Also, children’s experiences in their new billets were quite varied – some very happy, others not so, depending on the attitude of the hosts. Christopher read several poignant accounts from people who had been evacuees and also asked members present about their own experiences.