Ethel Rice was born Ethel Cross in November 1932. She lived in Stepney, East London and has extremely fond memories of growing up there including shopping in CanningTown and being left with her sister at Mrs Olly’s pie shop whilst her mum went shopping.
In the first wave of evacuations in 1939 her mother, sisters and nephew were evacuated to Somerset, which she loved. When no bombs had fallen, her mother and older sister decided they should go home, and although her host had offered to keep Ethel for the period of the war, her mother decided it was better that they all kept together. After moving home they had several near escapes as their home was quite near the docks and areas full of factories like Tate & Lyle so in 1940 they made their way to the hop fields in Kent. Click on the link below to hear her speaking about hop-picking:
After the hop season was over, the family were given the choice of going back toLondon or being evacuated en masse. Their house had been bombed the day they arrived in Kent, so although her elder sisters returned home, her younger sister, mother and father had little choice but to be evacuated. She speaks about arriving in Burton upon Trent in the following clip. Click the link to listen:
Unfortunately, Ethel has really unhappy memories of her evacuation to Burton upon Trent and really tries not to think about it. The locals, including teachers and children were really unkind and constantly treated her family differently for being evacuees. Neither was this limited to just her family. She can remember her mum and her friends from London all crying together and wishing to go home. Ethel has never settled and although she now lives in Tutbury she maintains the only reason they stayed was because they had nowhere to go back to. She did eventually make some friends at the senior school, but she has a massive desire to go back, even though she knows it will have completely changed from how she remembers it. She wonders what it would have been like if she had been able to stay in Somerset and how her life would be different if her whole family had been able to go back to London and live together.