“I must have been evacuated not long after the war started, we went to Finsbury Park station, that must have been the nearest, on the steam train of course, complete with our little cases and gas mask hung round our necks with a label attached to our coats, myself, and a few hundred other kids. I don’t remember being too upset as this was a big adventure to me” (10).
Below is a picture of a busy Finsbury Park station before the start of the “People’s War” in 1939.
Patricia’s home and family life during the latter stages of her childhood changed due to the breakout of war. When evacuation began in 1940, Patricia found herself in the picturesque town of Hatfield, Hertfordshire (as seen below). As Paul Fussell argues and as we are about to see, “one of the cruxes of the war, of course, is the collision between events and the language available” (1977, 184).
To Patricia as a child, this “phoney war” (13) was seen as nothing more than an “adventure” (13). By the end of the 1930’s, she was not only faced with war but had some of her fondest memories amongst it. Her travels to “Mr and Mrs Ploughman” positions Patricia in rural England (Hatfield, Hertfordshire) and fortunately away from war. Although as we knew it, “the peoples war” marked “a period of full employment and welfare provision that was only brought to an end by the election of Margaret Thatcher to government in 1979” (2014, 120).
Patricia’s first evacuation was with “Mr and Mrs Jenkins, Welsh would you believe” (13) where she spent a brief period of time before returning to war-torn London. Whilst away from home, Patricia celebrated not only her own birthday but also the birth of her sister on “January 7th, 1940 at a place called Brocket Hall” (13). In their absence, Patricia’s father was unable to look after their London home. Humorously remembers how the “house would be in a mess” (13) when she arrived home with her mother.
Unlike Elizabeth Bryson’s Look Back in Wonder (1966) which highlights the narrators “struggle to distinguish herself from family members” (1987, 340), Patricia argues through her writing quite the contrary. Come her second evacuation to Buckingham, Patricia feels a sense of relief in leaving her sister. She remembers describing her as “an absolute pest that seemed to destroy everything I had treasured for years” (14). Although clearly this was a childhood issue as she grew fonder of her as the two grew up together.
David Vincent argues that the “most striking characteristic of the autobiographers’ treatment of their family experience is not what is said but rather what is not said” (1980, 226). This is not the case for Patricia. Her writings give the feeling of no stone being left unturned, especially through her detailed descriptions of evacuation and “19 Union Street” (15). It was here where Patricia experienced rural life amongst an ageing “Mr and Mrs Plowman” (15) (no pun intended). Patricia’s second evacuation from London was certainly more adventurous to her and more detailed to us than the first. Whilst here Patricia had received her identification number (which she now knows as her medical number) (14) and experienced the pleasantness and unpleasantness of country life such as the picturesque countryside landscape and finding herself locked in a barn with a bull by the unruly landowners son. (More on that later).
Patricia’s experience of ‘home life’ changed during this period as rural life varied massively to life in the big city. Patricia fondly remembers the “lovely open space with fields to roam and play in” (15). This in stark contrast to urban life. She also fondly remembers the difference in size of the countryside kitchen in comparison to the one at home. Patricia describes the kitchen as “huge, complete with a black kitchen range” (14) where she would oftentimes find Mrs Ploughman making the “most wonderful pork pies” (16). Patricia’s experiences of rural culture and rural life oftentimes placed emphasis on the kitchen as the centre of activity, social interaction and domesticity.
Its also clear that Patricia’s experiences of the countryside during World War Two England are what inevitably led her to moving there in later life. The picturesque views, the spacious garden and the delicious meals cooked up by Mrs Ploughman all added to her fondness of the countryside experience. However, what didn’t add to it as she remembers was the son in law who shut Patricia “in a barn with a bull one day; I am sure it was tethered, even so it frightened the life out of me, it’s funny the things that stick in your memory” (17).
Patricia’s idea of home and family life were central to her childhood as it was where she would spend most of her time socialising and playing. From evacuation to being locked in with a bull, to experiencing the picturesque countryside often foreign to city life. Although home and family life being away from “Home” may have been a daunting experience for many young girls amongst World War Two Britain, for Patricia a change in both home and family through her memoir brought a sense of wonder excitement and awe.
Proofread by Tom Dinsdale.
Written and Published by LJMU student Brian McCloskey.
Fussell, Paul. (1977). The Great War and Modern Memory. Great Britain: Oxford University Press.
Gagnier, Regenia. “Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.” Victorian Studies 30, no.3 (1987): 335-63 Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3828397.
Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century. Great Britain: Pelican Books, 2015.
Saville, Patricia. “The Daughter I Never Had”, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4.
Todd, Selina. The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 (London: John Murray, 2014)
Vincent, David. “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class” Social History, Vol.5 No.2 (1980): 223-47 Available From: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4284976.