John Woodward was born in Margate, Kent and now lives in Westgate. He was brought up in a rented house in Margate until his father came into some money and they bought a terraced house in Hengist Avenue. He lived in this house with his mother and father, and three elder siblings. He attended Drapers Mills School before being evacuated.
He can’t remember being told about the evacuation, but he remembers the blackouts after war was declared, and can remember watching boats with injured Dunkirk soldiers being brought up the beach at Margate. There was a call for blankets and any help that could be provided and his mother and father went to help.
He was evacuated from the school on Sunday 2nd September, 1940. His slightly older sister, who attended a Girls School in Ramsgate, went the day after him. They were not billeted together. He can remember that he lined up at school and said goodbye to his parents before being taken to Ramsgate Station on a coach. He can’t remember much about the journey, but does remember seeing Dunkirk soldiers who were catching trains at London; they threw sweets and fruit to the children.
He arrived in Lichfield and was split up from his classmates. He and a few others (possibly 15 in number) went on to Elford Village School where he and his friend Derek Chapman were billeted with the Kirkman family in their Georgian farmhouse (Derek didn’t stay long as his parents moved up to Stafford). He can remember walking up to the house with Mrs Kirkman and her son John, which was not far from the school, and reeling at how grand it was. It had three storeys with a large drive and about 300 acres of land.
You can listen to him talking about his arrival at the farmhouse by clicking on the link below:
No Margate teachers stopped with them in Elford. Instead, the small group of evacuees were integrated into the village school and made good friends. He can remember thinking that the local children’s accent was odd. He enjoyed living on the Kirkman’s farm. In fact his favourite toy growing up had been a model farmyard. He helped by milking the cows, feeding the calves and rolling Mr Kirkman’s allowance of cigarettes using a Rizla rolling machine. He spent a lot of time out of doors, and learnt much about local wildlife from their son John who was the same age as him.
On passing his Eleven Plus, John moved to go to Grammar School inStafford. His Kent grammar, Chatham House, had moved up to Stafford during the war, and he lived with the Latham’s in 258 Oxford Gardens. Here he shared a room with a number of evacuees including Derek Chestoe and Frederick ‘Tommy’ Thomas. He enjoyed living with the Lathams, who lived with Mrs Latham’s parents Mr. and Mrs Daniels and their dog Biddy.
He moved out of the Lathams for a very short while before moving to be with his parents. He can’t remember the name of the couple he stayed with, but they had an older son, who he didn’t particularly get on well with, and he was on the other side of Stafford to Oxford Gardens and so lost his friends, amongst whom was a boy called Glyn Jones, who taught him to sing Welsh songs on their way to school.
While John was evacuated he hadn’t seen his father at all. His mother visited maybe twice and he saw his brother and sisters a few times. His oldest sister married a Yorkshire man, and the whole family (aside from John) went up to live there in lodgings, including his younger sister who had returned from her billet near Rugeley. As soon as they had a house big enough to take John, he also moved up to Yorkshire, so ending his life in Stafford. He and his parents moved back to Kent after the council told them their house was going to be requisitioned. He has stayed there ever since.