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The day we got that phone call was the day Mum changed. She’d always been fun and laughing, and then when Dad died she suddenly became sad and distant. It was like she thought it was her fault. It wasn’t her fault; it wasn’t even the German who had shot Dad’s fault. It was Hitler himself who was the cause of my Dad’s death.

Even when bombs were pouring down on London and the air raid siren had been going for a good ten minutes did Mum start worrying. My mum never used to worry, she was cheerful and carefree. When dad died she suddenly started getting all protective over us. I would go, “Mum, can I go round to Maggie’s house.” If it was about four o’clock she’d always say no. she would answer me, “No Beth, what if the air raid siren goes.” I was so mad at her. When grampie died mum was sad of course but she stayed cheerful for all of us. Hannah was probably most upset though. Grampie was teaching her how to sail. They went out on the Thames every Saturday morning. Annie didn’t understand. She was just a very tiny baby then. She’s one and a bit now. But Mum said cheerful through the whole thing for us! Now she just mopes around the house all day.

Mum said she was just trying to protect us but evacuation was the last straw. How could she have thought of evacuating us? She'd have been even lonelier than ever. All on her own, no one at all to talk to.

One morning mum came in and announced that we were getting evacuated. She said that we were getting a train the very next day! She didn’t know where we’re going. “Help Hannah pack and do a little suitcase for Annie,” she told me sweetly. But I couldn’t take any more of that and I lashed out at her. “Why can’t you?” I screamed, “You’re the one who’s sending us away. Don’t you want to spend the last evening for a very long time with your children? Why are you so sad all the time? Why can’t you be like you used to be? I’m tired of acting like the mother of this family. You’re the one that’s meant to make Annie and Hannah feel better, not me. You’re meant to comfort us not make things worse. Why can’t you be a proper mother?” I took a deep breath and turned my back on her. I heard her sob and suddenly I felt really bad that I’d said all those things. She had started gathering things together slowly for us. I went over and took the things off her. I dumped them on the bed and sat on her knee like I was a baby. She was sitting on the floor so I didn’t hurt her.

“Beth, I am so sorry I haven’t been here for you at one of the hardest times of your life. You need to be strong and brave for Annie and Hannah. If you look like you are scared they will fee scared too. I am not saying don’t be scared, but just look strong for them. Please, for me.” I put my head n her shoulder and let the tears come. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to cry like this for a long time. I knew I needed to be brave and for mum, I knew I would and could be.

The train journey was really difficult for me. I was so scared and sad, but I couldn’t show it for my sisters’ sake. We got up at half past 6. We had a quick breakfast and then I made some sandwiches for the journey while Mum quickly packed for Hannah and Annie. They shared a suitcase. She came down while they were cleaning there teeth. “I don’t know what I’ll do without you Beth. You know your Gran’s name is Elizabeth too but she got called Liz when she was little.”

“I prefer Beth,” I replied.

“Yes so do I. Well, we’d best be off. We need to see if Hannah and Annie are ready.”

We never saw that house again. It got bombed in 1944.

At the station Mum had to sign us up on a bit of paper, then a woman, who we were told to call Mrs Greenless, took a registrar. There were 36 evacuees going on that train. “Small batch,” Mrs Greenless had said. The platform was crowded, soldiers, more evacuee trains, and all the mothers off course. I was surprised to see that there were a few fathers too!

When we got on the train, Mum held my hand through the window, Hannah was searching through her suitcase to see if she had packed her marbles and Annie was really tired. When the whistle blew Mum kept holding my hand. I was close to tears but she was whispering, “Be brave,” to me. “Mum, I love you so much. Don’t ever leave me. Ok? Come and visit. We’ll write and say where we are and we’ll phone.” The train was at the end of the platform. Mum stood there waving to us. I yelled that I loved her as we pulled out of Waverly Station.

When I could no longer see Mum, I turned to Annie and Hannah. I must have had tears in my eyes because the first thing Hannah said was, “Are you ok, Beth.” I replied,”Yes, of course I’m ok. I’m just tired that’s all.”

“Bethy, are we going on holiday?” piped up Annie.

“No, sweetie, just a little trip.”

“Oh,” she answered. Nobody talked for a long time.

Suddenly a boy a bit older than me came into the carriage. He was quite messy, it only being 9 o’clock in the morning. “Can I sit with you, there’s no more room.” I didn’t really want him sitting with us but Hannah decided he could and leaped up quite happily, “Of course you can. What’s your name?” She was doing what we might call flirting but she called it “being friendly and earning brownie points.” His name was Peter. He was quite friendly and reasonably funny but not great company. He wasn’t really very good for having a conversation with.

The train journey was long and boring. It ended with Annie on my lap and Hannah with her head against my shoulder, both asleep. So I had to speak to Peter.

“I don’t know your name. Hannah just refers to you as ‘my sister’.”

“My name’s Beth short for Elizabeth but please DON’T call me Lizzie. I don’t like it. “

“Nice name.”

“Thanks.” Then he got out some sandwiches to eat and I was hungry but I couldn’t move anything except my hands. “Could you get my sandwiches? They’re in the bottom of my bag.” He shuffled around until he found them. “Thanks again.”

When the train pulled up in the station, I woke Hannah and Annie and tried to lift our suitcases. I had to lift Annie as she was very stubborn and refused to walk. But very kindly, Peter offered to hold my suitcase. I took my bag though.

The station was deserted. It was so different from the one in London. Quiet and small. There were flowers and I even saw a cat lurking near the coal heap!

When we eventually stopped walking, we went into a small church and were told to sit in the pews. Adults began entering the church. Children were whisked away by old ladies and men. A lady with a big basket came and said she wanted a 14 year old or so to help out in her café. The only female teenager left was me. And I didn’t want to be separated from my sisters. After a lot of negotiating and persuading the woman who was called Mrs Blackie, took us away.

Her house was lovely, it was just us, her, and her cat Smokie as her husband Sid was fighting. We stayed there for 2 years. When the war was over I was 16 and I had found the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.


******¬¬¬

“Was it Peter Mummy?”

“Yes, Ella it was. That is how I met your daddy.”

“Mummy?”

“Yes.”

“I can’t imagine Auntie Annie being a baby.”

“Well, she hasn’t changed a bit.”

“But Mummy, she must have got a bit bigger or she wouldn’t have fitted on your lap in the train.”

“Yes, dear.”





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