WWII: an evacuee's story
Millions of children who were evacuated during WWII found being wrenched from their families traumatic. Today, more than seven decades later, many evacuees are only just talking about the experience. Albert Smith tells me his story.
The single defining feature for most evacuees was that they were moved without warning. One such person was Albert Smith born on 7 July 1932 in Greenwich, the only boy among 7 sisters.
He remembers how peaceful London was before the war, but once it started it was chaotic and he and 2 of his sisters were evacuated immediately. Albert was first evacuated, in September 1939, to St Leonards on Sea, near Hastings. However, in 1940, when the German planes started bombing Hastings he was again evacuated to Wales.
Albert remembers feeling very sad as he had no idea if he would ever see his family again. He also remembers asking one of the boys on the train where they were going. ‘Wales’ was the reply. Albert had never heard of Wales until then.
On arrival at Narberth station all the children were taken to the County School to be picked up. His 2 sisters were collected immediately and taken to Redford Farm, Princes Gate. Albert and a boy called John Williams went with the Hancocks, from the Welsh Furs Farm, Princes Gate.
‘The Hancocks had no children of their own and they were very fond of, and kind to, us both’ says Albert. ‘I had never seen a cow except in books. There were also sheep and hens and I enjoyed my stay.
‘Once the war ended, they sent all the younger children home first but, since I was older, I was one of the last. I returned to London on 19 July 1945. However once back in London, I found it very difficult to settle down and so I asked the Hancocks if I could return to them and they said yes. I arrived back here on 22nd December 1945, just in time for my Christmas dinner.
‘After the war John and I lost touch but, after 36 years, we were reacquainted after John wrote to the Rector of Narberth asking for my whereabouts. Sadly, John passed away a few years later.’
Albert now lives in Robeston Wathen and is a regular worshipper at Holy Cross Church.
To conclude he says ‘Although I was happy and well looked after, I never quite lost that nagging sadness that I would so much rather have been with my mum.’