Robert Prett was born in 1930 in Broadstairs, Kent. He lived in a terraced house with his mother and brother. His father was in the Royal Navy. He can remember growing up in Broadstairs, and skinny-dipping in the sea.
He overheard his mother talking about evacuating his older brother to Stafford, and begged her to let him go too. She agreed, and on 6th June 1940, he and his classmates assembled at their school where they were put on buses to the train station and herded onto trains like cattle. He can remember seeing the opposite platform full of soldiers handing out sweets.
Robert remembers thinking that the whole day was an adventure. The children had no idea where they were going, and he didn’t know that they’d arrived in Tamworth until somebody gave him a card to send back to his mother. From Tamworth he was put in a taxi with one of his friends, Alfie Giffard, and they drove to a row of houses on Fazeley Road. He remembers clearly Mrs Smith, who lived at Rose Cottage saying: “Oh I’ll take this one”, and he was led inside.
Fortunately for Robert, the lady living next door to his hosts was pregnant and Robert’s mother came to stay with them and helped her to look after the baby. With his mother so close, he had a great time at Rose Cottage. Mr. Smith was a miner and they kept four pigs. He remembers how the hams from the pigs would be hung on hessian up the hallway, and the bath would be full of brawn.
Robert was moved from Tamworth to join his brother who was at a more senior school in Stafford. And he describes that it was at this point that his evacuation ‘fell apart a bit’. At first he stayed with a family on Sandon Road, next to the bakery, where he later got a job as a baker’s boy. He was unhappy here because he didn’t get on with the landlady who force fed him welsh rarebit. You can listen to Robert speaking about this incident by clicking on the link below:
Seeing he was unhappy, his mother moved him towards Eccleshall where he stopped with the manager of the Coop. However, he became malnourished here, so his mother moved him again to stay with Mr. and Mrs Bruce where he was happy. While at the Bruces, he became a butcher’s boy, where he helped to make sausages. He can remember coming off his bike and the meat delivery falling into the gravel.
In 1944 his school had returned to Kent and many of the boys had left. At this time Robert asked if he could be transferred to Tamworth Grammar School so he could live nearer his mother, and he did so until 1945 until the war had been won and he returned with his mother to Kent to greet his father, who had served 28 years in the Royal Navy. Click on the link below to hear Robert talking about his father’s service: