Jean Banks and Evelyn Green 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 just six months. Shortly afterwards they moved to Colchester because their father got a job at the barracks there. They lived here in a basement flat in Magdalen Roadwith their mother and the rest of their siblings until September 1940. Jean can clearly remember two spies living next door and the planes fighting in the skies. She also remembers one time in Colchester when the planes were swooping through the market square and her mother pushed her into Woolworth’s to get away from the guns. For a short period at this time they lived with foster parents because their mother had to work. Their brother Terry went to Dr Barnado’s.
When the bombing became really bad they were nearly sent to Canada to live with relations, but instead they were all evacuated together, including their mother and baby sister. Click on the link below to hear Jean talking about the day they were evacuated:
Once on the train the place Stoke-on-Trent was mentioned, although they didn’t recognise the name at the time. They were also told that the place would be safe and that they had never heard of air raids. Unfortunately the planes followed the train up to Stoke-on-Trent and they had their very first air raid courtesy of the train full of evacuees! They don’t remember much else about the journey aside from that it was very long. They believe they stopped in many tunnels to hide from enemy trains, and so the journey took nearly 12 hours.
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 spent more time still in Goldenhill Road, Carron Street and Berdmore Street when they were turned out by the landlord. At this stage their mother had to go to the workhouse and the children were sent to live in Penkhull Homes, a time they remember with fondness as the ‘parents’ they were placed with were good to them. From here they moved to Jackson’s in King’s Street.
Jean remembers being bitten by a mouse when they were at Jacksons, and being told off by one of the locals for asking for a sweet coupon. She remembers a happy holiday to Llandudno whilst living at Penkhull Homes, and although there were some good times, the lasting theme of the interview with Jean and 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 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.