Yeovil at war

Yeovil at war

The wartime Yeovil recollections of David Whybrew


I was brought up in London in SE17. I went to the Surrey Square School. I started there aged four years. Life was perfectly normal. We suffered from ‘urban poverty’ but we were happy. It was a nice school.

On 1st September 1939 I was evacuated. We were transported by tram to Waterloo station. We said goodbye to everyone we had ever known except the teachers. The head teacher was Miss Marie Fisher. She was a practices teacher. She was a professionally trained classic singer.
Other teachers were Miss Beecham and Miss Whale. We ended up in Yeovil, Somerset and I have no idea why. We were taken to the Liberal Hall and given supplies for 1 week. I have no idea how evacuees were allocated. Yeovil could not cope with the number of refugees and I was taken to a village 3 miles away called Mudford.

I went from urban poverty to rural poverty. The people were very kind. Waiting to be chosen by hosts was like being in cattle market. I was taken into the village and to the door of a house. The daughter of the house answered the door. “We will have him if his name is David” she said. The house was owned by a lady widow. She had 3 sons, 1 daughter and a brother. I am still in contact with that family.

There was no room at the village school so we used the village hut which was a wooden army hut. Miss Fisher came into her own. There was no equipment. She told us stories about her singing tour in America under the trees in the orchard. She took us out locally to see the Blacksmith, the cheese maker, the cider maker and the farm workers. Children gradually went back. Mother visited. There were cheap trips. I wanted to go back but I knew I couldn’t say anything.

The school was then moved to 2 rooms in the pub, the Half Moon Inn. We had no equipment or paper. Miss Fisher played the piano and sang to us. Then Miss Fisher got married.
We had a sense of freedom and would rampage over the countryside. I don’t know how the locals survived with the scruffy little kids over running them.

I then went to the village school and had to learn to blend with the country kids. It was a matter of survival.

After 18 months I passed the 11 plus. I had an interview at the local secondary school. I went to it on my own. I recall the headmaster interviewing me and a child crawling across the floor. I got in and started there in September 1944. The head teacher was Mr Dennis Thompson. I was there for 2 terms and then I returned to London. Back in London I felt like a fish out of water.


Reproduced from the BBC's "WW2 People's War" under the 'fair dealing' terms.