A Brighton woman’s moving story of being evacuated from London on the first day of the Second World War was rewarded with a £1,000 donation.
Maureen Blakey, 79, of Vicarage Lane in Rottingdean, described being sent to Sussex to an audience of politicians and officials at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 2 May).
She was speaking as part of an effort to raise funds towards a National Memorial to the Evacuation at the National Memorial Arboretum in Lichfield.
Mrs Blakey said: “Our parents didn’t know where we were going. That was secret. And we didn’t know where we were going until we arrived.
“I was, with my sister and brother, among the first children to be evacuated from London. I was sent down here to Goring.”
Mrs Blakey was two weeks short of her sixth birthday. She said: “I was fortunate that I had my sister with me who was 13. She was quite bossy. But it did help.
“My brother was sent to Marlow. Families were split up although they were told they wouldn’t be.
“Some were away for as long as six years. I was only away for two years as my family were ‘blitzed’ out of London. We ended up in Farnham. We were quite lucky.
“Lots of children who did go back had nothing to go back to. Their parents were killed or they were disowned and abandoned.
“Some of the children had grown up. Some went back and just didn’t get on.
“It was a social upheaval that this country has never seen before and hopefully never will see again.
“I’m asking you not to underestimate the courage of children in wartime.
“It’s still going on today. Children have to leave their homes and be brave. Little girls have to grow up quickly and little boys suddenly have to become the man of the family.”
Mrs Blakey choked back tears at times – “it brings it all back” – and was received with applause after telling her story to the Brighton and Hove City Council Policy and Resources Committee.
A report to the committee said: “This council applauds the work of the Evacuees Association in highlighting the story of the great evacuation that took place in vulnerable parts of the country at the start of World War Two.
“Brighton and Hove played a key part in the evacuation, initially as a safe haven for over 30,000 evacuees from London, many of whom settled with local families.
“Then later as the threat of a German invasion loomed, many of these children together with children from Brighton and Hove and other vulnerable people were themselves evacuated to other safer areas of the country.”
The report praised the efforts of the Evacuees Reunion Association and the Royal British Legion Women’s Section to commemorate the evacuees, foster parents, teachers, nurses, billeting officers and the bus and train drivers for their role in the evacuation.
The councillors on the committee voted to donate £1,000 towards the proposed memorial.