Esther Carpenter nee Davies was born in West Glamorganshire in 1929. In 1935 her family moved to Ramsgate because her father was a coal miner and he’d managed to get a job in a colliery there. They lived in an Edwardian house in Edith Road and she remembers the community being a very friendly mix of people. Her family were religious and went to church every Sunday. There were six children along with her mother and father. She was the fourth eldest and went to the local Church of England School.
She can remember being in Ramsgate when the WWII bombing started, and having to hide in the chalk caves until her evacuation just after the evacuation of soldiers from Dunkirk. They were given only 1 or 2 days’ notice, and can only remember her mother packing her and her sister a suitcase each with a nit comb and tooth brush.
After a very long journey the girls arrived in Betley, near Cheshire, where they were organised by the then Women’s Voluntary Service and treated to a hot drink and a sandwich. Esther can remember they were the last to be chosen, and even then, the woman who took them wanted only Esther’s sister, and not her. You can hear her speaking about how this felt in the audio clip below. Just click on the link to play:
The woman who took them home lived in a small terraced house with her new baby. From the off the girls didn’t get on with the lady, who smoke and drank, which they weren’t used to. She also made them do errands that they didn’t agree with, like walking to the off-license to fill her enamel jug with a quart of stout. On their first night they cried themselves to sleep in the bed that they shared. They also didn’t get on well with the local children, who called them ‘vaccies’. Their new way of life was strange to the girls, who were used to eating fresh cooked meals with vegetables from their father’s garden. At their host’s home, they ate very little other than bread and jam or butter.
Although they weren’t having a good time, they wrote letters home telling their family that they were, but as luck would have it, in 1941 their maternal grandfather got accommodation for them in Wales where their mother had been sent with the rest of the children. She remembers being put on a train and being collected by their mother in Cardiff. They were overjoyed to be reunited.