Wartime Evacuees

3 articles regarding the arrival of the evacuees to the village


Mr. Philip Herbert Samuel Martin B.Com., A.C.I.S. was instrumental in bring evacuees to Week St. Mary. Mr. Martin was educated at Selhurst Grammar School, Croydon, where he won the Royal Society of Arts Silver Medal for Precis writing at King's College, London, where he was trained for the teaching profession. He served in the first World War with the London Rifle Brigade and was badly wounded. His first professional appointment was with the Croydon Mentally Defective School, and from there he went to Sydenham Boys School, Croydon, as assistant head master. In 1935 he became an Associate of Chartered Institute of Secretaries.

Mr. Martin always had the boy's outside activities very much at heart being an organising secretary of the School Journeys' Association, arranging many outings. including a visit to the Royal Agricultural Show at Windsor and the Glasgow Exhibition in 1938. Twice yearly, until the war stopped it, he took & party of boys to camp for a fortnight at Caterham, Surrey. Weekly visits were also made to a farm near Croydon for the purpose of introducing town boys to country life. At the outbreak of the second World War, Mr. Martin was evacuated with Sydenham School to Woodingdean near Brighton and while there, he fulfilled his plan for the furthering of country knowledge by forming the first Young Farmers' Club for evacuees, and for his hard work in this sphere he was mentioned in Parliament.

In April 1940 he returned to his home only to leave again the following June for Week St Mary with a party of boys and girls. As head of the school he entered fully into all the activities of the village and figuring strongly in these were the Army Cadet Force, in which he held the rank of Captain, the Rifle Club and Observer Corps. He obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1946. Mr. Martin was a Freemason for many years and was both an ardent railway enthusiast and historian having had articles printed in the technical magazine. For several years he was a correspondent for the "Post and Weekly News" and up to 1951 was the Secretary of the Horticultural Show.

In an article written by him some time after the Second World War we read the following:
I remember well, when I left my home in Surrey at 7 a.m., to take charge of a party of Croydon children going on evacuation under Plan 4. The authorities had been alarmed by the drift back of children under the previous arrangements and determined to send them further afield, but all I knew was that we should detrain at Bude. The long journey ended about 7 p.m., when several hundred tired children and teachers detrained at the station and were shepherded into Cann Medlands Garage where a real Cornish meal was provided and the children were medically examined. I remember walking down the line of buses parked at the side and reading the names of the destinations. North Cornwall was unknown to me then, but it struck me that Week St. Mary was an attractive sounding name, and I gave instructions for my kit and party to be loaded as far as possible for this place. I never regretted this decision.
Somewhere about 8.30 Mr. L. Maddock drove the bus up to the school where the late Mrs. Sandercock, and her willing band of W.V.S. helpers assisted by many others set about distributing the children around the parish. Every child had a stamped post card on which to write its new address, and those in charge of parties sent telegrams to Croydon giving the location of each school party. The information was posted up outside the Town Hall and must have relieved many anxious parents. By 1945 Croydon children were to be found in 40 different counties.
Back in Week St. Mary the children were rapidly absorbed into the homes which had given them shelter and most remained until they were due to leave school or the end of evacuation in 1945. Many still visit the village or keep in touch with their foster parents.
When the attack started in August, 1940, the wisdom of evacuating the children was more evident and there were additions to the evacuees. These continued and in 1941 parties arrived from Bristol and Plymouth, so that the School and Methodist Schoolroom were crowded with 156 children and 6 teachers. The "fly bomb" period in 1944 brought the last party of evacuated children and mothers to the village this time from West London, but with the end of the German War most of these returned after a short stay.
Evacuation brought many problems and difficulties, but this was well worth while. It may be a sign of toughness to stick it through the raids, but no child should be forced to experience the sight and sound - and possible injuries which go with a modern air-raid. Those who returned from North Cornwall had had a period of loving care in a peaceful countryside, with the continuous education which every child needs. Naturally, they compared favourably in health and development with those who grew up among sleepless nights - and worse and interrupted schooling. The success of the movement was due in great measure to the whole-hearted help of the Cornish people who received the children and treated them as their own.
  • MY LIFE AS AN EVACUEE IN WEEK St MARY by Audrey Tarrant  (an extract from 'Week St Mary Village - a community at large')

Our school party left Croydon in the very early hours on 16th June 1940, we boarded a train not knowing where we were going. The journey took all day, and in hindsight the teachers who were with us must have had a very daunting job keeping us all amused, fed, toileted etc. throughout the day. We finally arrived at Bude station at about 7pm and were walked, crocodile fashion, across the road to a big garage which was full of large tables with ladies waiting to serve food to us. After this we were all assembled and escorted onto the fleet of buses there.

In all this time I must say I had no fear of where I was going, I remember being sad at leaving Mum and Dad, but knew that it had been arranged for Mum to come as a helper when the school was settled in. On arrival at Week St Mary I realised I had lost my two brothers since leaving the train! - then I began to worry!!!

We must have looked a very 'bedraggled bunch' when we arrived after being on the move all day, but we were all gradually taken in ones and twos by our foster parents and I went with Les & Mary Colwill to a large house, (well I thought it large after our little one in Croydon). When I woke up the following morning I couldn't believe the amount of 'country' all around.

After a few days my brothers were found, Colin had been kept at Bude for a medical exam and was eventually sent to Nath & Winnie Coles in Week St Mary, and Peter was discovered in Whitstone - he obviously joined the wrong bus. As he was happy there with Mr & Mrs Will Stanbury it was agreed he should not be moved.

We started school in the room beside the Methodist Chapel under the direction of Mr Martin and Miss Pratt, two classes with two teachers in one room could not have been easy. I think there was a small room at the back where we went for reading etc.

Eventually several children returned home and the rest of us were filtered into the main village school at the top of the hill, where 'Pop' Martin later took over as headmaster.

During our early days in Week, I remember most of us caught Impetigo which of course, being infectious, we were all treated with a medication which turned all our spotty faces, arms and legs mauve. I'm sure this did nothing for the local residents trying to endear themselves to this 'bedraggled lot'.

However everything turned out well in the end, because my memories of life in the village and being accepted by the villagers will stay with me for the rest of my life, and in spite of the war I look back at my time spent in Week St Mary as some of the happiest days of my life. We had some very good times especially trying to do a bit of drama in Audrey & Sheila Jones' father's barn, (Cawsey). This was behind Orchards shop on Week Hill.

Our meeting place always seemed to be by the pump in the square, we would sit on the trough and talk for ages and plan what we could do or talk about tomorrow.

Some of us would go after school to the Blacksmith's Forge and help Ned Masters with the bellows. It was fascinating watching him shape the iron into a shoe and then burn it onto the horse - we learnt a lot there! The forge at this time was between the market place and Ivy Cottage, where George and Edna Masters lived, down a rough little lane. Photos on the website seem to indicate it as being in the square now.

Another meeting place was at 4pm every day when the incoming post arrived at the Post Office, which was then opposite the Chapel in Mr & Mrs Sandercock's house. After a quick sort, Mrs Sandercock would come out and call out the names for us 'regulars' there and we would take it away. There was always a lot of chat as it was a mixed crowd of eager youngster as well as some of the older folk expecting the letters etc. If anyone was lucky enough to get a parcel - well there was no holding them! 

As I was later billeted at The Temperance Hotel with Mr & Mrs Ned Masters and their daughter Christine (later Mrs Den Treleven). I probably had more contact than most with the schoolteacher Miss Retallack who also lived there. I regarded her as much of a 'demon' as the rest in school, but indoors she did seem to relax and she was always more friendly. I remember her helping me if my knitting went wrong (as it often did) and she always used very long needles and tucked them under her arms when knitting - which seemed very strange to me with my short 'learners' needles.

The Temperance was quite the hub of the village with people, farmers and market personnel being constant visitors, and with a view from the window onto the square, we were aware of all the 'goings on.' On Market Days the hotel almost exploded with the comings and goings of the farmers and others visiting the Auctioneer who used the small sitting room as their office for the day. Most of the farmers and auctioneers had the lunch cooked by Mrs Masters This was always a roast meal and because of all this catering, extra rations were available. Compared with a lot of others during the war, I consider we fared very well there, and I think most villagers did by helping one another with foodstuffs that were in short supply. I seem to remember we had jam and cream at most meals, and meat nearly every day!!!!

As I have said, my childhood in Week St Mary was a very happy time, and when my mother gave birth to my sister in 19411 thought life was wonderful. We all integrated so well with the local children (as any villagers who are 70/80years 'young' and were in the village during the war will readily agree.) It was very strange, on looking back, how we all settled so well, but this must be credited to the villagers who made us all so welcome, and treated us as extended families, not just 'VACS'. My heartfelt thanks go to one and all in Week St Mary for making my wartime experiences so easy and pleasurable to remember. They will remain my GOOD & HAPPY YEARS.


I remember the day very well. About 30 of us children, aged between 5 and 11, with 4 teachers, had travelled, by train, all day from Croydon and had arrived in Week St Mary in the early evening after being “fed and watered” at Cann Medland’s Garage which was then opposite Bude railway station (regrettably no longer there either!) It was a very daunting experience for us children, standing in the school room waiting to be picked out by the local couples who, I believe, had been forced to give us a home for the duration of the war. These foster parents must have been very apprehensive at the sight of us, looking a very “bedraggled lot” after travelling all day!!

I was eventually taken by Les and Mary Colwill, with another girl named Eileen, to their home on Lower Square. I was there for about 3 months, when Mary became ill and I was transferred to the Temperance Hotel which was then in the Square beside the cattle market.

My memories of Week St Mary are of a countryside I had never known before, and of being so close to all animals, especially on market days. I cannot remember feeling homesick, and can only think this must have been due to the way all the villagers welcomed us into their homes (and I am happy to say still do, as on my recent visits.) 

The one regret I have is that I have lost contact with all of the other evacuees in Croydon (apart from my brother Colin who now lives near Blackpool and my friend Molly (nee Tarvin) who now lives in Dorset).  Who knows though, maybe someone will read this on the web page, and recognise themselves!!


Sunday 20th June 2010 

A small congregation attended Evensong at St. Mary's Church to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of evacuees from the London area to Week St. Mary. Audrey Tarrant is one of the few evacuees remaining and is a frequent visitor to the village and a contributor to both this web site and my book on Week St. Mary Village.

Audrey, accompanied by her daughter, Jill, were made welcome by those present and thanks was made by Rev Rob for their donation of the flowers (opposite) to mark the anniversary. 

During the service Rev Rob played a brief recording of an air-raid siren followed by a speech from Winston Churchill which helped to create the right atmosphere of the occasion. He made several references to the evacuees in his sermon, highlighting the way the villagers pulled together in that time of need for the good of young strangers suddenly thrust into their midst.

I (David Martin), grandson of Mr Martin who brought the children to the village in 1940 and who became headmaster of the County Primary School until his death in 1953, put together a small display of appropriate pictures showing the arrival of the evacuees and a few wartime pictures.

Audrey was made so welcome by those present and over a cup of tea and biscuits she was soon engaged in chat about her time in the village.


Audrey Tarrant (centre) is seen here with her daughter (right) engaged in conversation with Jean Martin, following the special service to remember all the evacuees that lived in the village to avoid the destruction happening in the London area.

50º 45'03.84N  4º 30'01.39W      OS: SX 237977      Elevation: 142m

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