Vernon Bell's Story
Some 4 years ago I started to research my family history and have made
good progress with the project, despite only having very limited
information on even my Grandparents.
I have pushed some lines back into the 17th century without the benefit
of a famous or infamous ancestor to kick things on.
Progress has been slower than perhaps others might achieve due partly
to living in New Zealand, which is just as distant one can get from
England the land of my birth. Another thing that slows me down is the
time I take out from pure genealogical research to smell the flowers
along the way.
The flowers being the social conditions and the historic happenings
they lived through.
I am now up to my ears in the French Wars as I believe that an
ancestor (a Thames waterman) was pressed as may of them were into the
Navy. He served on the Swiftsure as a Quarter Gunner at the Battle of
I can hear you all muttering," what is this to do with evacuees "?
Well, here I am trying to make sense of what my ancestors were doing
200 years ago, when it dawned on me that my descendants in a 100 years
time would , if interested, be doing the same thing about me.
So an autobiography is now in hand, and I hope to get it done in outline
before, as we say in NZ I have too many "senior moments" a polite way of
saying the onset of gaga is nigh.
I started by listing all the places I can recall living in and the
next place after home town Leyton was Harlow.
The computer memory may be smart, but the human mind once focused on a
problem is hard to beat.
It may be selective on times, but it was easy for me to go back to
September 1939 when at the age of six & a bit I was among the first wave
to leave East London as an evacuee to Harlow, which is just down the
road from Leyton. I must admit that other than a mind picture of two
elderly (to me at the time) ladies looking after me not much remains
of that exercise.
I returned to London I suspect after a short stay in Harlow but found
myself on the move again as the London Blitz started this time to the
small village of Bradninch near Exeter, Devon.
The memory of the journey to Bradninch as long faded away but in super
sharp focus is a group of us outside a church, clutching our cardboard
gas mask box and personal possessions in a case not much bigger.
The assembled villagers eyed us up like calves on market day, made
their selection and departed.
I became aware that I was the only on left and no takers !
I learned later that I was saved by the insistence of my host family's
three children that the parents should go along to see the most exciting
thing to happen in the village since the Coronation Party.
There was no way could this family take another child into their three
room farm cottage their children was told, and being as poor as the
proverbial church mice to boot.
They turned up just as I dissolved into tears at my rejection by the
"We had better take this 'un home with us" they said.
Vernon Alec Bell