My Grandmother's wartime story

From a school project in Eastbourne

By David Taft and Katy Taft

Photo:My Grandmother age 8

My Grandmother age 8

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

Photo:A postcard of Rms Antonia

A postcard of Rms Antonia

Photo from WRVS Heritage Plus Archive

My Grandmother's story

Bellow is a written account of my Grandmother's evacuee experience when she went to Canada. She originally came from Faversham in Kent but returned to Margate after the war. It was here that she met my Grandfather shortly afterwards. She wrote this for me to include in a project I did when I was attending West Rise Junior School Langney Eastbourne in 1989. I was in class JH and was nine. The words are my Grandmother's own. (Katy Taft 2008)

Personal Account of a Wartime Evacuee

Katy's Grandma Taft

Name Patricia Mary Parsonson
Date of birth - March 1, 1931
Address - Faversham, Kent.

Why she was an evacuee

Reason for becoming an evacuee - After the British army's defeat at Dunkirk France in June 1940, there was a serious fear of Germans invading Kent and forcing people from their homes. Plans were made for families to be moved away from the area but those in important jobs e.g. railway workers, doctors, police etc, would have to stay. As my parents were in charge of a hospital they asked if I could join the government scheme called "Children Overseas Reception Board" C.O.R.B. Children from other parts of England also joined, but we all had interviews as there weren't enough places on ships at first. Those whose needs were greatest were chosen first.

Who went from Faversham?

From Faversham 9 children were chosen. C.O.R.B. sent us a list of clothes to take with us all marked with our name and a special number (mothers had to sew on the tapes on each item of clothing). Our suitcases had to be a certain size and weight so we didn't take many toys!

Going to the ship

On August 4, 1940 we went by train from Faversham to London with a kind lady in charge of us. We went across London in two taxis to another station where we met more children and helpers. We went on another train to Liverpool and stayed for six days and nights in the Holts' Boys School, sleeping on camp beds on the floor with a straw mattress. This school was closed for the summer holidays so we didn't see the pupils there. Liverpool Docks were bombed whilst we were there so our own ship had to go to Gourock in Scotland to wait for us. We had to get a train to get there and stayed another night in Holyrood School Glasgow first.

Joining the Antonia

On August 10 1940 we eventually went on board the ship "Antonia" and sailed for Canada. There were about 300 children also a lot of Jewish families who had escaped the Nazis in Germany and Austria - it was very crowded, but we had nice cabins. Mr Shakespeare organised everything and gave each child a bible.

Life on board

Our ship sailed in a convoy which included four destroyers and a battleship "H.M.S. Revenge" There were two other passenger ships and after a while one left us to go to Australia, the other one to New York U.S.A. We played games on the deck of the ship, and we were allowed to borrow books from the library on board, but I was very sea sick so didn't do much. We sailed on a zig-zag course to avoid mines, which meant the ship often turned. We did not see any enemy ships and arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada after 9 days at sea.

Landing in Canada

When we got off the ship we had to wait several hours in a large building where solders had been waiting to get another boat to leave for war. But at last we got on a Canadian train with all the other boat people and had to wear labels saying which province in Canada we were going to.  300 children and the helpers meant that it was a long train. The coaches had been used by early immigrants, they were old fashioned and uncomfortable but clean.

Who she went to

I knew I was going to stay with the sister of my mother's friend in England. She was an old lady with a husband and grown up sons and daughters and grandchildren. She lived in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which was 3000 miles to go by train. It took several days to get there as the train stopped several times for children and helpers to get off. Some children knew they were going to stay with friends but most went to foster parents who were found by Canadian social workers.

A break in the train journey

At Winnipeg, Manitoba, we had a day away from the train only about 100 children were still on it. We went to a hotel for a nice meal and a bath and shampoo and kind people took us sight seeing. Then we got on another train to finish the journey on the west coast of Canada - British Columbia, but I got off at Saskatoon, before then. 25 children left the train there. The mayor etc. was on the platform to welcome us. First we had to go to a school for a medical exam.

German measles breaks out

Somebody had German measles, so we were in quarantine and all 25 had to stay in the school for 10 days but I was not ill. It was a lovely building and the children were away on summer holidays (it was a boarding school for deaf children)

Life in Canada

At last I went to live with the lady I mentioned, called Mrs Hill. It was very cold in the winter. My parents were not allowed to send money or parcels from England so the neighbours had a "Sewing Bee" and made me a warm jacket, trousers + hood. Mrs Hill was ill and the social worker asked if I would like to move to another home. I went to live with Mr and Mrs. Filby for the next four and a half years. They had been expecting their niece and nephew from England but C.O.R.B. decided no more children should be sent to Canada as a ship had been sunk after I arrived and only four people had been rescued.

I was happy living with Mr and Mrs Filby as they were kind. He was headmaster of a junior school.

Return home

In July 1945, when the war in Europe was over, C.O.R.B. arranged for me to return to England. The journey was by train and ship but much quicker as there was no fighting.

Patricia Taft

This page was added by David Taft on 13/05/2008.
Comments about this page

Thank you for publishing your story, it has helped me in two ways.
1. it illustrates another element of how children were evacuated for my daughter, who is studying WW2 at school and is written in a lovely detailed narrative.
2. it throws light on a mystery I have been trying to solve for my dad, who was going to go on a ship to Canada, tickets and places confirmed, but was told he couldn't go because a ship had sunk....

On 11/11/2009

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