The more I look at the question of Second World War evacuees in the area, the more I am astounded and puzzled by the matter. A search of the newspaper archives reveals that we absorbed huge numbers of folk, not just children. This has been a revelation to me.
What has also caused some degree of surprise is that the papers for the period indicate in some articles that there were instances where Evacuees were not merely unwelcome, but some folk were actively hostile to them; and the children in particular seemed to come to some conflict with the law. One report even suggests the authorities lost touch with some people moved here, and couldn’t find them later!
Reader and contributor Jenny Langford sent me some interesting comment on adults that came here in wartime:
There is much talk about men who were brought to this area to work in the mines during the war.
But similar things happened with teaching staff at the schools I’ve learned.
It was only at my late aunt’s funeral about 2 years ago, she was almost 95 yrs old when she died, that I found out how she came to be here in Walsall Wood. She was after all, Yorkshire born and bred.
After doing her teacher training at college in Brighton, she was ‘sent’ to Walsall Wood to teach during WW2… Because we needed teachers here I presume.
She had no choice in the matter I understand, she was told that they were sending her here, and so she came.
Maybe this explains why she lodged at the house of a local Councillor?
She stayed and many years later, she moved to become headmistress of a school in West Bromwich, a long way from Yorkshire.
What I’m interested in here particularly is that in all the conversations I’ve had with folk about local wartime history, all those times I’ve talked informally, in person about the bad days of conflict, nobody has ever mentioned the incomers in anything but the most general terms. Jenny points out that the teacher grew roots here, and many must have done so. Who were these people? Some must surely be still in the area to tell their tales?
The article I include below is a case in point: a sudden influx of blind folk. That must have been quite memorable. Why is it not really mentioned?
I’d really like to build up a record of this if possible. You know the drill, comment here or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.
From the Lichfield Mercury, Friday 16th August 1940:
BLIND EVACUEES ENTERTAINED AT BBOWNHILLS
A happy thought by Mr. and Mrs. John Insull, host and hostess of the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Brownhills, has brought much Joy to some thirty blind people evacuated from the south coast to billets in Brownhills. With the help of the W.V.S., who furnished names and addresses, invitations were sent out to these people, and on Thursday afternoon a most appetising tea was set out for them in the hotel annexe. Some old friendships were renewed. The blind ladies who were at Bexhill-on-Sea together met again, neither having known that the other was in Brownhills, while two others, who formerly lived in the same street, discovered each other, and chatted together like happy children. Mr. Insull has placed his rose garden and annexe at the disposal of the visitors at all times. On behalf of the visitors, Mrs. Williams, of Lea, Lewisham, thanked Mr. and Mrs. Insull for their kindness and generosity, and Mrs. Cooper, of Bexhill, said that the people of the Midlands had a happy way of rubbing off the square corners when making friends. Mr and Mrs Myers from Dover, remarked ‘We miss our families very much, but look forward to the postman with his letters.’ A musical entertainment was provided.