Joyce Smith was born in Ramsgate in 1934. Before the Second World War began she can remember running through Ramsgate to watch her uncle drilling tunnels for air raid shelters under the ground. She could do this because the Headmaster at Holy Trinity School had taken it upon himself to close her school down. While she was ‘running free’, her sister and brother continued to go to school, and she believes it must have been there that they were first told about evacuation as she was completely oblivious to it all, although she can remember her mother kept buying them all clothes so that they would have new clothes to go in.
When the day came to be evacuated, Joyce remembers that parents weren’t allowed to accompany their children down to the platform because it was so busy with all the children and soldiers going the opposite way. You can hear some of her heart-breaking story of the day they were evacuated by clicking on the link below:
Although their mother had given Violet orders to stay together, they were chosen by two different families who were next door neighbours. Violet and Joyce stayed with the Sergeants and their brother Leslie stayed with the Wisemans. They had to walk across a brook and three fields to get to Leslie’s new home.
While they were evacuated, it was considered too dangerous for those not employed in important work to stay in Ramsgate so her mother went to stay near her sister in Cardiff with the rest of the family, where her dad got a job on the docks and she also started work. Joyce talks about how her mother told them she had a wonderful time in those four years because she had her own money (much of which was sent in the form of parcels and gifts to Staffordshire!) and didn’t have to worry about her children as she knew they were safe. One particular gift they received was an orange. She recalls how the children followed her round in the playground asking for pieces of pith and peel.
A lot of the other Ramsgate children didn’t stop in Staffordshire and after a few years there was only Joyce, Violet, Leslie and two others left. They loved every second. They were protected wonderfully by their host parents and fed well. Her only concern when she first arrived at the house was that it had a thatched roof and she could only think about the ‘Three Little Pigs’ and how a wolf might blow it down! The school teachers were nice and she remembers spending most of her playtime at school drawing houses in the dirt with her friends in the playground and ‘living’ in them together.
They were visited by their uncle whilst billeted in Staffordshire, and you can hear Joyce speaking about how he dug them out of the snow in the following audio clip:
Violet went to work in Cardiff when she was 14 and Joyce and Les stayed until he was 14, at which time he was told they had a job on the docks for him in Cardiff. Instead, everybody went back to their since looted house in Ramsgate and her mother had to make a home from scratch. Les and Joyce were both very unhappy about being sent home, and to this day Joyce recalls how even after she was married she wanted to go back to Staffordshire to live.