Ken McTigue's Story
Thanks for the opportunity to be involved with Evacuee's Club.
I originate from Dagenham, Essex, near enough to talk like a Londoner
but not to call myself one, although I never deny that I am one.
I was evacuated to three different places ranging from September 1st
1939 until I finally returned home permanently in March 1945.
My first time was to a place called Stody Lodge near Holt in Norfolk
(Sep 1 till Jan 1940.)
My second time was to Hermitage near Newbury in Berkshire (September
1940 till September 1941 and finally Worlingworth in Suffolk (September
1941 till March 1945)
I am currently attempting to write a book about my life as an evacuee
and have been attempting to complete some research for some twelve months
now. Maybe I can now make some progress through the Evacuee Club.
I would love to hear from anyone who may remember me from those days; I
lived with Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Greenard in Worlingworth and with Miss Agnes
Sharpe (Aunt Aggy) in Hermitage.
I wish all the members the very best of Luck in their reminiscences and
their possible renewing of old acquaintances.
Further to my email yesterday, I live in Smithfield Plains just north of
Just to let you know how successful your Club is I have already had
contact from a Club Member in Perth.
My Mother visited my two sisters and myself occasionally in
Worlingworth - Suffolk where we were evacuated. One time when she came
she proudly withdrew from her bag three bananas, one for each of us.
She told us that she had queued up at the greengrocers for two and a
half hours to get them for us, for it was a rare event and so rare that
each person with a ration book was allowed one each.
Imaging her shock and horror when I took her into the front room where
on the table was a large bowl of fruit including oranges and about ten bananas.
I lived quite close to an American Air base (Horham) and the Yanks used
to be very generous and gave us plenty of fruit and sweets.
Incidentally, we had generous amounts of ice-cream (soft serve) from them
Some of us had a lovely war!
Hi Gerry and Everyone,
I was first evacuated to Norfolk on the first day of the war, I went
with my Grandmother, Mother and my two sisters. Nothing happened for
those first few months (the 'phoney war') and so many families returned
to their homes. Incidentally, we were transported on the Thames Pleasure
boat the "Royal Sovereign."
We left Dagenham Docks and landed at Yarmouth Harbour.
Having returned home in January 1940 we stayed at home until the bombing
started, first on the airfields and then after, on the towns.
A mass evacuation was put into effect and with my two sisters we went to
Hermitage in Berkshire. This was after the Battle of Britain was won. I
stayed there for one year and then with my two sisters were transferred
to Worlingworth in Suffolk, where we stayed until the war's end.
I was one of the lucky ones I suppose, from what I have heard of the
suffering of others, but all my foster parents were really good to us.
I lived with a Miss Agnes Sharpe (Aunt Aggie) in Berkshire and later
with Mr. and Mrs. Alfred and Eva Greenard in Worlingworth.
I was fourteen years old when the war finished, and like many others at
the time, in those six years of war I had a lifetime of experiences.
I am attempting to put them into a book,,,,,,maybe one
PS I would dearly love to hear from anyone from any of those places
where I lived.
I have never thought much about how being evacuated had effected my life
until the subject came up in our group.
I don't suppose I was effected by being evacuated so much as by events of the
Before the war started I and my sisters were part of a normal family with a father
and a mother, we were a unit, a complete family. Then came the war.
The family was broken up by the evacuation, and it was not until the war finished
that we were to get back together again, but this was to be short-lived. My mother
through being at work and earning wages, became independent (this happened
to so many families), she separated from and then divorced my father
,so that the family was effectively broken up in 1939.
It did not effect me so much, being evacuated, I too had learned to be independent
and after leaving school at fourteen I could not settle down to a normal life. So
I joined the Merchant Navy.
Not until I got married and had children did I finally realize I was home, my
children were my stabilizing influence.
I don't know what sought of character I would have been but for my life from 1939
till 1945. Everything was taken in stride and was accepted as normal.
So I cannot say that the war changed me.
During the time I was evacuated I worked on a number of farms around Worlingworth
My Foster Parents owned a Coal and Meal delivery company and also ground meal for
My Foster Mother's father owned a farm, and it was mainly on this farm where I worked.
During the summer months I would work on the farm from daylight (about 5.45 AM) until
it was time to go to school, and then after school I would again work from about
5.30 PM until it got dark at about 10.45 PM.
Saturday morning's I would bag up 1/2 hundred weights of coal and deliver these around
the village by horse and cart. I bagged the coal in half lots because I was too small to carry a
whole bag. I generally delivered about half a ton every Saturday. For this I was paid 1 shilling
The work on the farm entailed: singling out the sugar beet, weeding between the crops of beans
and peas, 'mucklin' - Spreading horse manure and other fertilizers - and harvesting.
During the autumn and winter we would harvest the sugarbeet and potato crops, and also
'thrash the corn by steam machines.
As I remember I used to be paid 2d to 6d per row for singling and thinning out crops
depending on the length of the rows.
When I tell my son how hard I used to work as a twelve to fourteen-year old, he makes
like he's playing a violin!!!!.
The thing really is, that I did not think anything of doing all this work, it just seemed natural
to me, nearly every other boy at school at that time did it.
As far as I recall we were allowed out of school early to work on the farms because of
the shortage of labour.
Thanks for jogging my memory of these events, it is another subject for my book.............
Editor's note on Sept. 1 2000, the 61st anniversary of the German invasion of Poland I
posed this question to the group "Where were you on this day 61 years ago"?
Friday September 1st 1939
I awoke to the sounds of my parents muffled talking and moving around up
and down the stairs, I lay for a short while wondering what all the activity
was about. My Grandmother came into my bedroom and told me to get up and
get dressed, I said, "what's going on Gran?" why is every body getting up at
this time of the morning, it's still dark?"
Gran said, "Kenny we all have to get up because we are going on a trip, we
are being evacuated." She carried on; "we have to go to the school and meet
with other people to get on buses to go away."
It was still very dark outside, and the time would have been around 4.30 in
Mum and Dad helped to get all the suitcases and bags together, and we joined
several other families outside Parsloes primary school in Dagenham to wait
for transport, we were told that we were going to Dagenham docks to get on a ship.
Speculation became rumors as our destination was discussed, I was only
eight years old but I can remember some excitement as we thought we might be
going to America.
With this thought in mind some families pulled out and refused to go, and
there was some disappointment among the other children when their mothers
decided to return home.
My Gran and mother had decided to continue, and we waited for a long time for
Eventually, we were told that there was to be no transport and that we would
have to walk to Dagenham docks to catch the ship?
I don't know how long we had waited, but it was quite light, and I would
guess the time to be around 8 or 9 o'clock.
Luckily for us the weather was mild and fine.
The walk was a long one, several miles and while the mothers and older
children struggled with all their baggage, the younger ones, I included,
played chase for most of the way.
I remember we were all strung out in a long column walking along the edge of
the road. Several more families dropped out during this long walk and
returned home. Even so there were still several hundred people in that long
column and eventually, we reached the docks about lunch time.
There were two ships docked and waiting for us, and I believe that quite a
number of families from other areas had already arrived because there seemed
to be a lot of mothers and children already on board.
My family eventually boarded the royal sovereign, a paddle steamer that used
to carry holiday passengers up and down the Thames river during the summer.
We eventually, sailed and arrived at great Yarmouth late in the afternoon.
We were transported on corporation buses to a local school where we spent
the night sleeping in the classrooms.
This is my recollection of that infamous day.
THE ROCKET BATTERY
In late 1943 the foster mother with whom my sisters were living was having a baby,
and it was decided that we should all return to Dagenham for seven weeks holiday.
At this time German air-aids were only sporadic with only a few bombers coming over
at night to bomb London and the surrounding area.
The sound of the anti aircraft gunfire was much louder than the sound
of any bombers exploding.
My mother had made a bed up for my two sisters under a side-board in the living
room, and I was sleeping on the settee; my mother was sitting in an armchair doing
some knitting. The air raid siren had sounded, but often nothing happened as the
Germans used to fly just up to the coast and turn away. The radar had picked them
up, and the sirens would then automatically sound.
This was done to interrupt people sleeping and getting a good nights rest.
Because of this, many people took no notice and carried on with whatever
they were doing, and did not go into their shelters.
I was sitting up on the settee building a cardboard cutout airplane model, and we
could hear the bombers high overhead, the anti aircraft guns were making their usual
noisy cracks and bangs when suddenly there was a terrific whooshing
sound like an express train coming through the side of the house.
I bolted off the settee and joined my sisters under the side-board and then looked to see
where my mother was, she was still sitting in the armchair and was quite amused and
was quietly laughing at my antics, I think I had just invented coloured under pants!
It turned out that the local park just up the road had gotten a battery of anti aircraft rockets
installed, and there was eighty of these rocket launchers and they produced quite a
racket when they were all fired off together. After this I used to got outside when the
sirens went off to watch the rockets being fired, it was quite a firework display.
It was quite spectacular to see the rockets exploding as they were fused to go off
at different heights to bracket any enemy planes they managed to get near.
In order to keep the rockets on a straight path they had a length of wire trailing behind,
sometimes the rocket would not explode correctly and they would return to earth causing quite
a lot of damage. One night an unexploded rocket came down just outside a public house
and exploded just as the clientele were leaving it, causing several deaths and a few injuries.
The rockets were manned (womanned?) by ATS girls and during the day we would go along
to the park and watch them practice at reloading the launchers. These consisted of lengths of
half piping and a firing mechanism that was connected to a central control.
Radar was used to track the enemy aircraft, and they were extremely accurate and
managed to bring down a number of bombers, though not while I was watching.
Someone mentioned the sights sounds, and smell of the shoe repair shops and the subject
brought to mind a very unusual experience I had with a blind cobbler while I was an
evacuee in Suffolk.
The following is an extract from a book I am trying to write
The Village Cobbler
Most of the boots and shoes requiring repair were taken to Mr. Walter Read a local cobbler.
Mr. Read had been blinded in the first world war and had been invalided out of the army in 1917.
He attended St. Dunston's hospital for the blind and was taught the trade of leather work,
this included making leather goods as well as boot and shoe repairs.
My foster dad Mr. Greenard took me with him once when he was taking some boots for repair,
this I suspect was the show me where to go, forever after this I was given the job of
delivery and collection for boot and shoe repairs.
Mr. Read had a small workshop at the side of his house in the village of Bedfield in Suffolk,
this being about six miles from where I lived with Mr. Greenard.
On the occasions that I took items for repair I collected boots and shoes for several
This would fill a basket that I used to fix on the handlebars of my bike.
I used to be fascinated watching Mr. Read stitching soles and nailing heels onto the footwear;
he also used to fix the hobnails onto the soles and heels of the farm work boots.
He also used to repair harness and saddles for the local farmers.
I always enjoyed these excursions to his workshop and was never in a hurry to get
away. One of the jobs I used to do for him was to sweep the floor with a large magnet to
pickup dropped nails, and there used to be plenty. I then used to sort them out into there
appropriate boxes and trays.
Whenever I experience the smell of leather, it brings to mind the wonderful character
of Walter Read.
I cannot remember the last time I saw him but I searched the internet for information
regarding him and I found out that he was something of a celebrity in both
Suffolk and south Norfolk.
He together with a group of local musicians used to travel to hotels and public houses
around the districts singing and dancing folk songs and country jigs.
I knew that he played a squeeze box but that was all.
I got to thinking (rare occasion for me according to the wife!) about one
particular Christmas party in 1944.
Quite close to where we were living in Worlingworth -Suffolk was an
American Air base (Horam- home to the 95th Bomb Group)
Very often they would throw parties for the kids in the area and dances
for the grown-ups.
Christmas in 1944 another party was thrown for the kids and the GI's
organized transport to collect about two thousand children from all the
A lorry came to our village and picked up about forty or more kids.
More kids were arriving in lorries and on jeeps
We arrived at the base and were taken to a large hangar that was normally
used for repairing and maintaining the bombers.
Heavily decorated long tables were laid out with all kinds of food and
containers of drink, we were all told to be seated at the tables.
GI's came around and served us all with plates of turkey, ham, vegetables
and "peanut butter." I had never before tasted this "peanut Butter " and it
was put onto the plate like a big spoon of mashed potato.
I was horrified at what happened next, before I could say anything the GI
place a large spoonful of jam on my turkey.
"I don't want jam on my meat" I said,
"That's not jam son" he said, "it's cranberry sauce."
It was the first attempt at Americanizing Ken; I was not amused.
(I still do not have cranberry sauce on my turkey, but I do put apple
sauce on my pork!
But, the rest of the party was amazing, how they managed to get all
that Ice cream made for the day I'll never know, for several thousand
gallons of the stuff must have been consumed. I cannot remember
much about the rest of the meal except the Ice cream, but I do remember
the Christmas present given to me by the GI Father Xmas, it was
"Wow" I said, "a mouth organ."
" That's not a mouth organ son" he said " that is a harmonica,
and if you spend a lot of time practicing with it you will become a good player.
I did practice a lot with it, and I managed to knock out a few tunes
but I never became a Larry Adler.
Years later I bought myself a number of harmonica's and even joined
in a harmonica band for a short while.
I will always remember that one Christmas.
Every boy carried a catapult; it was as much a part of his equipment as
was his penknife.
I had made my catapult by sawing a piece of thick plywood in the shape of a
'Y' and tying thick rubber elastic to each yoke of the 'Y'.
I had this catapult for about two years and Mr. Greenard had promised to
teach me how to make a really good one.
On my thirteenth birthday he produced the catapult he had promised -
what a beauty!
the time that he first promised to make me a catapult he had
located a piece of blackthorn shrub growing along the edge
of the road. In his shrub was a fork growing on one of the stems.
He tied up the uprights of the 'y' to form a 'u' and then left this to grow.
After two years the catapult was then the right shape, and he made me
the grandest catapult you ever saw.
The elastic was from 1/4" square rubber, where he got this I do not know
Because you could not buy rubber products owing to the war shortages.
But, I had the most effective catapult in the whole area.
I was the envy of all the other boys.
I eventually became quite adept at hitting a target and could hit a
penny coin almost every time from about twenty paces.
Birds and rabbits suffered terribly from my catapult.
I made ammunition from clay. I mixed clay up with horsehair cut into
small pieces. Then rolled these into small balls about the size of a
marble and they were either baked or placed out in the sun to harden.
With the horsehair the clay balls would not break up and
providing I did not lose them I could use them again.
On at least two occasions I had the catapult confiscated by the
headmaster at school, but it was always returned at the end of the week.
We were not allowed to take them to school.
I also had an occasion when it was stolen.
It was hard for anyone to keep my catapult hidden, and I quickly
found the boy who had stolen it.
He finished up with a swollen eye and a split lip,
and I finished up with my catapult back.
My mother had an air raid shelter in her back garden in
The Crescent in Dagenham. She never used it as it was
full of water.
One night a land mine fell onto the back fence and exploded
taking off the roof and blowing out all the doors and windows.
One family only used their shelter, and they were killed outright.
They live about four houses further up the street.
Just the other day I saw a report that a person was awarded $A 2.4m
for being strapped at school thereby causing undue trauma.
It made me think back to the days at school, which were mostly as
an evacuee anyway and the caning sometimes meted out to us
(boys that is, the girls were not caned at our school).
I remembered an incident that caused a lot of laughter by the
students but not by the Headmaster.
One of the boys had gotten himself into trouble that resulted in
him receiving the cane from the Headmaster, I cannot recall
the misdemeanor that brought this about.
The headmaster kept his canes (which were cane walking sticks)
in a tube in a large cupboard in the main hall.
The student in question had to bend over a chair in front of
the morning assembly of the school children.
The boy was called out and made to bend over the chair, and
the headmaster went to the cupboard to get the cane.
Throwing open the door to the cupboard. the headmaster
selected a cane from the tube, but when he turned around to the
victim he saw in his hand just the curved part of the cane. Unbeknown
to him or to the rest of us, someone had cut the straight part of the
cane off and replaced the handle in the top of the tube.
He threw down the piece of cane and selected another, same
result and another and another, all the canes had been cut off short.
Everybody burst out laughing which threw the headmaster
into a rage, he screamed out "SILENCE" which had an
immediate effect and silenced everybody.
The Headmaster demanded that the culprit owned up to the
deed, and seeing that the canes had been cut with a penknife
he made us all turn our pockets out thinking he would find the
perpetrator. Since nearly every boy carried a penknife, eventually
we were allowed to go to our classes, and the Headmaster
never did find out who had cut his canes. Never did we
find out either, whoever it was kept a great secret.
Three weeks later the Headmaster had replaced his canes,
and the boy was called out to receive the six strokes that
he had been due.
Over the years, I suppose I received my share of
the cane, we always knew what the consequences were
if we had done wrong and we accepted our punishment
without complaint. It was considered sissy-ish to cry or
I reckon that my share of punishment would be worth about
$A15m today, If I could get someone to take up my case.
On V.E. day I was working in Upton Park on the bomb damage.
I had gotten a job as an apprentice to a plumber.
I was working on the roof of a shop in Green Street and opposite
was a radio shop. Outside they had put a radio and I heard the
broadcast that the war was over (as I write this the hair is creeping up
the back of my neck, it still has an effect on me when I think
of it). I ran downstairs and let the others know.
All work finished, I think t was mid morning and we all went to the
railway station to get home.
There were thousands all doing the same thing, it was all
exciting stuff, everybody kissing each other, anyone in uniform
was mobbed.One thing I could not understand is where all the bottles
of whiskey came from, I think about every fourth gent had a bottle
and was sharing it around. The journey home to Dagenham that normally
would have taken 40 minutes or so took me three hours that day.
tWhen I got home all of the neighbors had congregated out in
the street and had lit a huge bonfire and I remember we were up all
night. It was certainly a night to remember. I don't remember V.J. Day
so much except that we went to London and were outside
Buckingham Palace to see the Royal Family come out on the balcony.
To see Piccadilly Circus all lit up was certainly a sight to see.
At the school I went to when I was evacuated in Norfolk we had a
The teacher told us about the animals and birds that we could observe
in the countryside.
She had a number of birds eggs in a display case and told us the
names of the birds and the colours and patterns on the eggs.
The teacher told us to keep our eyes open when in the countryside for any
animals and birds and when we went to school on Monday morning
she would question us about what we had observed.
On the weekend I was walking in the garden at the back of the house
when I spotted a fawn coloured egg with brown spots on floating in the
pond, I carefully scooped up the egg, took it home and placed it into a
paper bag to take to school on Monday.
I was really pleased with myself.
On the Monday morning the school bus pulled up, and we all got on,
I sat in my seat and carefully nursed my egg.
As the bus arrived at the school, I got up ready to get off the bus.
The bus stopped with a jerk, and I stumbled against the back of the
seat in front to me, I put out my hand (the one with the egg in the bag)
to save myself and crushed the egg against the seat in front.
The egg burst, the smell was awful because the egg was rotten, the boy sitting
in the seat was awfully sick and threw up over the seat in front of him and t
he yellow/brown yoke flowed down the back of the seat where he had been
sitting. The smell in the bus was absolutely dreadful, and all the kids on
the bus rushed to get off, to some of them this was a huge joke and they
were jeering and laughing. We all assembled in the main hall of the school
for the register to be called out and when that was done the headmaster
called my name out. I was given a bucket of water and disinfectant and
made to clean the bus up and apologize to the bus driver.
I had learnt a very important lesson.................
BAD EGGS FLOAT, AND GOOD EGGS SINK!
Sir Baboon Mcgoon
One late Sunday afternoon in October 1943 several other children and
myself were playing outside when a B17 flying fortress with its flaps
extended (which meant it was landing) and the wheels still up.
The engines were throttled right back, and it crash-landed just one and a
half miles away in the village of Tannington.
We knew that something was drastically wrong because Horam airfield
was just 2 1Ú2 miles away in the opposite direction.
We heard the sound of the plane crashing, there was no sound of
anything breaking up, just the sound of the plane grating along the
ground. This was not surprising as it turned out because the bomber
landed in a field of sugar beet. The ground was very soft and wet.
We all grabbed our bikes and hightailed it to the crash site.
When we arrived the crew were standing at the gateway of a field,
The farmer who owned the land had arrived, he was a member
of the local home guard and was standing with them.
He stopped us from getting too close so we could not talk to the crew.
The bomber had landed in a sugar beet field and had slid for quite
a distance on its under fuselage. The chin turret had been crushed into
the nose of the aircraft, and all the propellers were bent back.
More people from the home guard arrived, and later a lorry arrived from
the American airbase at Horham, the nearby airfield of the 95th bomb
group, and the air crew left.
Two American military police were left on guard.
Nearly all American planes had pictures, or cartoons painted on the nose;
this was known as 'nose art''.
The B17 that crashed at Tannington was no exception and painted on the
two sides of the nose was a cartoon and inscription "Sir Baboon
Mcgoon" this was a character based on the cartoon strip 'lil'abner'
from an American newspaper.
At that time I was away from school with a mysterious rash, and the
doctor had guaranteed me from school until the rash had cleared up.
I went over to the crash site, but I was not allowed near the plane.
Next day two large lorries arrived with caravans in tow, these were a
mobile workshop and a mobile kitchen and rest room.
After observing them for about half an hour I was called over to the
plane. I was really excited at this and they introduced themselves to
me and explained that they were going to attempt to repair the bomber
and that it would take off from the field, and it would return to the airfield
where it was stationed.
This happened to be bassingbourne, near Cambridge home of the 91st
The next day I went over to the field early and the mechanics were
laying out some large rubber bags around the wings.
The following day I had to attend the doctors and was kept from visiting
the site. But on the third day I again went to the site, and the Fortress
was standing up on its wheels and there was scaffolding around the engines.
The rubber bags I had seen two days before were used to jack up the
aircraft, and the wheels had been lowered to their normal position.
The repair crew were staying in a cottage in Framlingham and used to
arrive at the crash site very early each morning.
I was asked if I could procure some eggs and vegetables for them
for their meals. This I did, I supplied eggs (for which I had not asked
permission and dug up potatoes and carrots from the garden at a
Mr. Blake's farm. I also caught a few rabbits, which were put into a stew.
I accompanied the cook who had a carbine and showed him where to
We lay in a depression in the meadow and waited for the rabbits to come out.
After a little while a large buck came into view, the cook took aim and fired.
The bullet struck the rabbit's midriff, and the rabbit disintegrated, there
was little left of the rabbit and the cook decided that this was not the
way to catch dinner.
I taught the cook how to set rabbit snares, and we managed to catch a
number of rabbits that way.
I was given small tasks around the damaged bomber such as drilling
out rivets from torn aluminium panels ready for replacement.
I was also given the job of cutting off the tops and bottoms of empty
canned meat tins and empty dried egg tins. These were flattened out and
riveted together to make temporary panels to patch the holes in the
wings, nose and belly of the plane.
I used to go and sit in the pilots cockpit and in my imagination I was the
pilot, I flew several missions to Berlin all completely successful.
I continued visiting the site for the next two weeks during which time new
engines and propellers had been installed, and the torn parts of the fuselage
had been patched over with sheets of tin made up from the tinned meat
and dried egg cans.
With the job nearly finished my rash had gone and I had to go back to
I was not to see the fortress take off, only the sound of the engines
being run up and then their full revs as it took off.
It did not even come over the school, but flew directly in the opposite
We were playing in then playground, and we heard Sir Baboon Mcgoon
take off and disappear into the distance as it flew back to Bassingbourn.
Since doing some research work recently on the history of the 91st bomb
group I have found out that 'Sir Baboon' was fully repaired and once again
was flying missions though not with the same crew.
It was shot down, and crash landed in Holland on the 29th march 1944, the
ten crew members were all taken prisoner.
The original crew of Sir Baboon Mcgoon went on to fly several more
missions before they too were shot down over Germany.
The above is an excerpt taken from a book I am writing (attempting) and
edited to shorten it..
Best regards to the group