Doris Hollingsworth's Story


 I was evacuated from London to Saxton Green in Suffolk, in 1939

At the time I was 5-1/2 years old,

I can still see my older brothers and sister, mum & dad standing

on the platform as the train pulled out of the station leaving

me and a younger brother on the train. The people with whom we stayed truly

resented our being "dumped on them" and certainly made life as difficult for

us as possible. In quiet moments I often drift back to those times. I came

to the U.S. when I was 14 years old



I had gone to an AARP seniors meeting on Wednesday afternoon and was asked to

tell something about myself, and I started to chat about my childhood as an

evacuee, something I had never done before. But, I think from reading the

Evacuees E-mail I opened up and just kept chatting and chatting to the group

of twenty-five people who sat hypnotized as I mentioned that my two brothers who were

three and six years old and I who was five were put on a train and taken away

from our family in London and sent to Suffolk. Our parents couldn't

visit us since civilians were not allowed to ride the trains since there was a

possibility that the Germans would bomb the trains, also the troops needed

the trains. About a year later one of the first bombs to hit London in 1939

landed on the air raid shelter where my Mum was sheltering and killed her

and thirty-nine other people.

As I mentioned, the place where the meeting was held was so quiet since the

people were captivated with my discussion which was a spur of the moment .

They asked me to prepare more information and come back in two weeks and tell

them more. At that point my mind became numb, and I almost felt panicky and

reached out to the people that I have come to know by reading the daily


Doris Hollingsworth,

Boonton, NJ USA


First, I would like to say how therapeutic the visit to Baltimore was for me.

(editior's note: on the weekend of May 25-27 2001, a group of us met together for

the first time in Baltimore, MD)

There are many thoughts racing through my mind that I would like to examine,

but I am one of 65 who belong to the group and there is only so much of my

stories that will interest the group so it is hard to know where to begin and

where to end.  

First of all from whence I came,  Holborn, where the cockneys live, within the

sounds of Bow Bells, was not the area that one would point out to the tourists;

neither would then King George and his bride to be riding in their chariots past

our door. If anything they would have skirted the area to avoid it at all costs.  

To class the area as the slums was being kind.  I don't think it was crime ridden,

but rather there was a depression and no extra monies for paints or things to

beautify the flats was forthcoming. Had monies been forthcoming he would have

absconded with the lot, and brag about how clever he was for pulling his

sneaky strokes.

When Dennis my three-year old brother and I left on the train to Saxtead Falls

in Suffolk in 1939 it would be years before I would meet any member of my

family again, out of sight, out of mind so to speak.  My mother was killed one

year later in 1940 when a bomb smashed into the air raid shelter in London

taking her and thirty-nine other people to their deaths.

My father's claim to fame was that he was able to produce ten children

but had no idea how to feed and support them.  He had odd jobs, one as a

barrow boy, hustling whatever he could, some being sick baby chicks.

We got most of our meals from a center down the road that fed the poor.

 When Dennis and I left London, my father abandoned us, he never wrote,

never sent monies, never ever bothered with us, so we were at the mercy

of the people with whom we were evacuated.  

When we arrived at Saxtead Green with our name labels on our chests, nits

in our heads, and gas masks over our shoulders and a few bits and pieces of

very used unwashed clothing, Dennis with his blond curls and pint size was just

darling and was the first to be picked. "Take him" yelled Mr. Aldrich, the

well-to-do miller who owned the now famous landmark "The Mill at Saxtead Green"

which was a windmill and he ground the wheat into flour. Out of pity he took

me since no-one had put in a request for me.  You might say that was my downfall,

because he reminded me daily that if it hadn't been for him I would have been

sent back to London. I became his "whipping girl," Anything that went wrong

with the mill, the flour, his family, he would take it out on me.  He would take

his family for rides in his fancy car, and I was left home, he had no reason;

he just didn't want me along.  My bed was a mattress on the floor, I was so

frightened by him that nightly I would wet the bed and he would hang my

sheets out of the window for all the school kids to see as they walked to school

and would scream with laughter at the wet sheets.

So I was treated as the village chump since I couldn't stop peeing

the bed. If I cried I was belittled and smacked around because that was totally

unacceptable. I was lucky to have a home I could always be shipped back to London.

Hence in life when I should have cried I  couldn't, it was so instilled in me not

to cry that there were no tears, and crying is still very difficult for me.

Anyway, this is a start, I would like to thank Yvonne, Mara and Gerry for

making me feel welcome.  I was so touched by the kind words of you people

yesterday that I brushed away a couple of tears, I would have like more

but in some ways I am a product of my childhood.

When I first got into the Evacuee group back in September 2000, I was

so thrilled and proud that Gerry had written and given me a page on the

web site, that I raced over to an American relative and explained how I felt.

I thought I was talking to a member of the Aldrich family, I was belittled

and told to stop living in the past, and to get on with my life.  Needless to

say I don't discuss my childhood with this relative who has much schooling

and makes her living as a counselor--I am sure glad I am not one of her clients.

I did not mention Baltimore, I couldn't hear more sarcasm about living in the past.  

Doris from New Jersey


When I was 11 years old I went back to London and lived with my father and his

girlfriend Lil in a one room flat on Praed Street in Paddington and attended

St. Michael's School.  I was delighted to be back in London in spite of the fact

that the living quarters were tight.  The one flush toilet for the six families

(who all had 2-3 rooms) was out in the backyard, the backyard was the size of a

stamp, really tiny.  I made it my job to tear up newspapers, wipe size, for the 6

families and their offspring, I figured if I needed to get there in a hurry I would

be given preference.  There was a sink in the hallway where we were just about able

to stick a small pot underneath to get water for cooking and washing.  Our lights

were from a gaslight with a mantle, in the hallway was a meter which George my

father learned to crack open and steal the shilling from.  Truthfully, I went from

one fire to another.  As before when I was in London the food was in short supply

and Lil scouted out the nearest place where we got free meals.


Before very long at the school, all of the children were lined up and heads were checked

for nits.  Needless to say I had them and had to go 2 miles away to a delousing station

where a silver comb was used in a disinfectant and combed through my nit laden locks.

 The solution dried on my hair which made the hair very stiff and had to stay on for 4-5 days.

Everybody knew what the stiff hair meant, and it smelt of a disinfectant, so once again I was

shunned by the kids.  Once a week I went to the public baths in Marylbone for a bath and to

wash out any dead lice in my hair.


When I was sent to the delousing clinic which was about every 4 months, I was"greeted"

by a nurse in a huge nursing cap which was so big it appeared as an umbrella to me,

how she kept that thing on was beyond me; it was just propped on her head.

 As I came through the door she would stiffen up and be Nurse Proper, sit here, stand there,

wait here.  As she grabbed my thin locks and racked that silver comb doused with

all-purpose pine cleaner against my scalp it felt like chalk on a board, her greeting to me

was Oh! You again?




Yes I was embarrassed because Mr. Aldridge dunked me head first into a huge tank of water

and it was only because I grabbed onto bars that supported the covers to the tank that I even

survived, and then he threw me to the ground and rushed me off to school, but what was the

point of complaining. If he could have finished me off, he would have When I was seven years

old, a lady from the evacuees committee came to the Aldrich Compound and with Mr. & Mrs.

Aldrich sitting at the table I was told my mother wouldn't be coming to visit Dennis or me

since she had been killed in an air raid bombing. I wasn't even sure what being dead was

since it had never been explained to me. It was blunt and to the point, there was no sitting me

on someone's lap or stroking my head or hugging me for comfort, it was straight and to the

point - this is what happened --and then she got up and left. No one said a word and I was

dismissed and sent outside to walk the path in the garden, up and down for hours at a time

with no one to talk to or play with. There were no tears from me since I had be conditioned

not to cry and was swatted about the head if I even let out a murmur or shed a tear.


While I was composing this correspondence yesterday my sister who is now 81 years old

called to ask how the Baltimore meeting had gone. First, let me explain that she has neve

r bothered to ask me about my evacuee days but I am constantly inundated with what she

went through, the fires were the biggest, the bombs were the nosiest, the buzz bombs were

the loudest the food rationing was worse where she was. I mentioned to her that I was in the

process of telling the group about my bed wetting fiasco whilst with the Aldriches, she

immediately jumped to their defense and questioned how would I react if some snotty nose,

nit filled kid moved in to my home and started piddling in my bed what would my reaction be.

I gave up and ended the conversation and crawled back into my world of silence -

this is my family but we will always be strangers.



Updated 5/31/2001