Evelyn Green and Jean Banks are sisters who moved to Folkestone from Ootacamund, India with their family in May 1935 when Jean was nearly three years old and Evelyn was six months. Shortly afterwards they moved to Colchester because their father got a job at the barracks there. Here they lived in a basement flat in Magdalen Road with their mother and the rest of their siblings until September 1940.
They were nearly sent to Canada to live with relations when the bombing started, but instead they were all evacuated together, as a family when a coach came down the road to pick everybody up. They went by train to Stoke-on-Trent, stopping in tunnels to throw off the enemy planes. It took nearly 12 hours to get there.
Once in Stoke, they were taken to a church where there were offers from people to take individual children from the family. However, their mother wanted to stay together and Jean believes they were the last to be lodged. After there they went on to lodgings behind the carpenter’s shop in Newtown and then ended up in a top room over a pawnbrokers and spending more time still in Goldenhill Road, Carron Street and Berdmore Street when they were turned out by the landlord. Listen to Evelyn talking about the first spate of lodgings by clicking on the link below:
At this stage their mother had to go to the workhouse and the children were sent to live in Penkhull Homes. They remember this with fondness and you can listen to Evelyn talking about this by clicking on this link:
Whilst they were in Stoke-on-Trent the girls’ mother and father divorced and Evelyn can remember being teased for not having a father, although this would have been the case for many of the children at the time. Evelyn remembers well one of the lodgings having an open fire with a big grate where mice used to live and how their cats would always go in to get them and end up running out with their tails on fire. They remember a happy holiday to Llandudno whilst living at Penkhull Homes, and although there were some good times, the lasting theme of the interview with Evelyn is that of them being passed from pillar to post from one lodging to another and neither of them really having a place to call ‘home’ until they both got married.
They mention that their mother was very unhappy in Stoke, but they also understand how hard it must have been for her, after living with servants in a grand home in India to being extremely poor and trying to feed her children in any number of different ‘hovels’ that they lived in. Jean and Evelyn clearly state how important for them the then Women’s Voluntary Service and Salvation Army were before and during the War years. They doubt if they would have survived without their kind donations of clothing etc. and remember their mother telling them to eat as much as they could when they could, because they didn’t know when the next meal would come from.