Tales of the Evacuees (2)
The museum often gets enquiries about evacuees during the war; but we find that there is little recorded information about them.
We tend to think that a trickle of children arrived by train and were billeted with local families.
But, in August 1939, 382 children arrived at Diss railway station to be dispersed around the area.
The records of Raglan School, in Bush Hill Park, north of London, describe the mass exodus to the country.
“28.8.39 to 31.8.39: Full staff on evacuation registration. All gas masks were fitted and replaced if necessary. Every member of evacuation party labelled and given iron rations. Party assembled at 9am. State of party – 173 boys, 143 girls, 66 infants. Total 382. Teaching staff 36. Voluntary helper escorts 36. Roll called. Prayers said by the Vicar of St. Mark’s Church. 10.30am – party left school premises to entrain at Bush Hill Park Station for an unknown destination.”
“Has proved to be Diss in Norfolk. There the Raglan School party was most kindly received; and eventually, after the last bus and car load of children had been dispatched to billets, teachers, by then very weary, tried to accommodate themselves to strange surroundings and conditions, and wondered what the future held in store.”
“By the end of the first weekend the staff had located all children and completed registers of addresses etc; and it was then that we realised how completely the Raglan party was disintegrated, for staff and children were scattered over 17 villages of the Depwade area, stretching from the Norwich boundary in the north to the Bungay district in the south. The difficulties of caring adequately for all the needs of the children in these conditions can be imagined, but the job was well and faithfully done through the almost superhuman efforts of the teachers and a grand team of helpers.”
“Before long a steady trickle of children was returning home, and it became apparent that the educational needs of pupils in the home districts must be met.”
I am indebted to Mr. Colin Walker for this information. He visited Diss recently, for the first time since the war, and recognised the White Horse pub, where he and his family were billeted.