On the morning of 31 August 1939, three days before war broke out, an evacuation order was given for the next day. Children began frantically assembling in their schools early on the morning of 1 September and Operation Pied Piper began in earnest. 

We were part of that mass evacuation, being 6 and 7 years old at the time. We gathered together early in the morning in the School hall and at the set time, we all walked to the bus with our teachers. Some parents stayed to wave us off. We felt excited and nervous at the same time. It was the big day that we had been preparing for. The journey on the bus seemed very long but we talked, told jokes and sang songs to keep our spirits up. When we arrived at the station there were children from other schools — all waiting for trains to take them away to the country side and to safety. After a very long wait we boarded a train, no-one knew where we were going. We were allowed to take one small suitcase and had to carry our gas masks, also in a small box with a strap. Each of us had a large label with our name and address on it. This label was tied to the gas mask or our coats. When we eventually arrived various local dignitaries were at the platform to greet us.

The people in charge of housing us were called billeting officers and they had lists of our names and the local people who were willing to take a child or children. Some of us were chosen by a kindly farmer, others a flower shop owner, a school teacher and the Lady of the manor who didn’t look very friendly at all. 

Year 2 had an amazing day at Swindon Steam Museum experiencing the evacuation, looking at what the children were allowed to carry in their suitcases, how they were given water at the platforms and of course what happened when you needed a toilet stop. They were also crammed into dark and smelly public air raid shelter listening to the siren, the sounds of falling bombs and feeling the relief of the all clear siren. It was an amazing day full of valuable experiences, moments of real empathy and artefacts to handle.

Jennifer Howerd, Year 2 (French)