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BOMBED OUT AND GETTING YOUR KNEES BROWN

December 8, 2013

brian davis Take this one web

A JOURNALIST’S RECOLLECTIONS OF WAR TIME EVACUATION AND NATIONAL SERVICE

THEY say there is a book in every journalist, one is good, but two could be regarded as getting a bit greedy.

Mind you this particular journalist is a former weekly newspaper editor and the gift of a wordsmith causes itchy fingers particularly close to a typewriter.

Brentwood based Brian Davis, 79, retired a decade or so ago as editor of the Brentwood Argus and put his spare time to researching two events that had quite an effect on him personally

He said: “I did the evacuee book because many of my playmates during the war were evacuees from Southampton.”

Orrible Little Man wenThe evacuation of children began at the start of the Second World War when Brian lived in a Dorset village.

He has two books on release; “I’ll Take That One” a story of youngsters evacuated at the outset of war, and; “You ‘Orrible Little Man”, filled with personal memories of the squaddies when they had to ‘get fell in’.

“It is now 70-odd years since the Second World War forced more than two-million children living in the target areas for German bombs to be evacuated to places of comparative safety”, said Brian.

“They were labelled like parcels, and journeyed into the unknown being billeted with strangers.

“Some landed on their feet in stately homes; some found themselves in squalid cold and damp country cottages; some were treated as welcome members of a new family, and others regarded as unwanted intruders.”

More than 250 of them, are featured in Brian’s book and explain that their experiences taught them to be resilient and self-reliant, while others reveal that the trauma of evacuation affected them so badly that their lives were blighted for ever.

He said: “Whatever memories they may have, they are linked by the common bond of being ‘vacees’.” .

The Evacuation began on September 1, 1939, two days before the declaration of war. From London and the other main cities, groups of people were loaded on trains and dispatched to rural towns and villages, others sent by bus to closer areas .

However, it did notww2_children_evacuated_bus wartime image web all go well. People were gathered and put on the first available train, sometimes apparently regardless of its destination, and family groups were further separated in the transfer from mainline trains to more local transport.

East Anglian ports received many children evacuated from Dagenham, but it was not unusual for some reception areas to receive more than the expected number.

In the first three days, 1.5 million people were moved, 827,000 children of school age; 524,000 mothers and young children (under 5). In total almost 3.75 million people were displaced.

In his second book Brian Davis reflects that it is 50 years since the last National Serviceman was demobbed.

The years of National Service covered almost two decades, from World War Two to the birth of the Beatles. In all, between 1945 and 1963, 2.5 million young men were ‘called up’, with 6,000 being called up every fortnight.

Brian said: “The National Service book came about because although I spent all my national service as an army typist in Exeter, many of my friends served in exotic places like Jamaica and Paris, or in war zones like Korea, Kenya and Malaya. They all had different stories to tell.

“Everyone who was called up to do their bit remembers the day they were ordered to ‘get fell in’,” he said.

“They were ‘orrible little men’ who had to be broken down and reassembled as disciplined individuals obeying every command and working together like an efficient machine.”

Brian believes that both events need to be recorded on a personal level.

He said: Brian Davis pic web“The books are both biographies and I think they archive that part of twentieth-century life that affected so many”.

They are available from Brian;  I’ll Take That One (ISBN 978-0-9529151-2-6) includes the stories of a number of evacuees from Essex, and ‘You ‘Orrible Little Man‘, (ISBN 978-0-9529151-1-9). Both are available from Brian Davis at: 31 Whinhams Way, Billericay CM12 0HD, tel: 01277 295652. The books are £15.99 plus £3 p&p each, or can be collected from home address.

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