My name is Alan J Smith. I was 3yrs and 6 months old when the 2nd World War officially commenced on the 3rd Sept. 1939. I became one of the 3.5 million evacuees during that war. I was born in the East End of London on the 9th February, 1936. For me, evacuation provided a view of the outside world. I saw greener pastures, and was never again happy with my city environment. Some returned to their homes to stay, others remained in the countryside they had grown to love. Yet others returned to their cities in 1945 when this terrible war came to an end but returned to the countryside again. I was one of those.
My mother would not leave her children (I had a younger brother, Brian, at the time), so we were evacuated to several places, including Windsor and Somerset before eventually living in Sibford Gower, Sutton-Under-Brailes and then Whichford where I spent my first four years in the village school. In Sibford Gower we lived in the Mission Room where several of our family had a room upstairs. Mrs Rust and a Mrs Sullivan and others lived downstairs. It was idyllic in Sibford, away from the dog-fights in the sky over London where the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Royal Air Force took on the Messerschmidts 109’s and 110’s of the Luftwaffe and away from the bombs (we had been bombed out once) and lost all our furniture and possessions.
The peace of the countryside was wonderful with good nights’ sleep, being able to bath and good food. We were also able to put away our Micky Mouse gas masks. I remember a Mrs Barnes bowling turnips (I think) down the hill in the Colony. My mother made friends of the indigenous people, in particular, a Mr and Mrs Dunkley. Mrs Dunkley and mum remained friends for the rest of their lives.
We moved away from Sibford Gower and our friends and went to live in Sutton-Under-Brailes until I was 5 years and 6 months old. Then we were found a cottage in Whichford, one amongst four cottages named Church End Cottages. These were situated opposite the church of St. Michael’s. My second brother, Ron, was christened in the church in the year 1944 by the Rev. Gifford. Ron was born in the cottage on the 4th May.
I remember a Mr Parkin and a Mr Herbert who taught in the Friends School in Sibford walking the children to Whichford woods and back. This is an overview of my experiences as an evacuee in these parts of the country. The villages that I have loved since about 1940. I will remember those times for the rest of my life!