Registerd with Icra
An evacuees Story
   
 

 

During the early summer of 2006, we had a very pleasant conversation with Mr Hahn from Bedfordshire, who visited Skegness to rediscover his war-time childhood days as an evacuee from London during world war 2. We are very grateful for his story and the interesting recollection of his experiences as a 10 year old at that time. We have kindly been given permission to publish his memories and sincerely thank Mr. Hahn for his time and help in compiling this piece of local history.
 

 

Arriving from the docklands of London at Skegness railway station in 1942, , the 10 year old Mr. Hahn's first impression of Skegness was that of wilderness and memories of fields of grass inhabited by grazing cows - which he had never before seen in his lifetime. Knowing only the busy city life and the streets of dockland London, the contrast and tranquility of war-time Skegness initially came as quite a shock. Mr. Hahn was to lodge on a semi-voluntary basis with distant relatives, Mr and Mrs Hearne. who he recalls had two children, Stanley and Irene. The home in which he was to live for the next two years was the end house of a terraced property known as "Seven Sisters" situated in Roman Bank (name of road - A52). The location was some 1 1/2 miles from the railway station (and central Skegness) and was accessed by landau. The property still exists to this day (in 2006).

image of end terrace
"Seven Sisters" in 2006

Other than neighbours in the terrace, the nearest property on Roman Bank to the north was some 1/4 mile distant (now replaced with a school), thus the row of terraced houses stood all but alone in desolate countryside. To the south, a corner shop (year 2006) located on the corner of Church Lane was then a large family home, accommodating other evacuees from Dagenham, London. Several other homes were located on Church Lane.

A 10 feet wide drain ran round the rear of the property which occasionally lapped up to the house after heavy rain. Rats occasionally ran in front of the drain, and commonly shimmed water pipes and peered into the first floor windows..Moor Hens.were often seen on the drain. Donkeys grazed in a grass field over the drain. The winters were very harsh, and the property was extremely bleak and cold with ice commonly freezing on the inside of the windows.The little heating available was a small open fire which burned coal, driftwood and fallen branches from trees collected from the nearby golf course. Mr Hahn recalls neighbours Mr. Backhouse and Mr. Green (who had a wooden leg).

 

Image of terrace
"Seven Sisters" in 2006


For a very short time the young Mr. Hahn joined St. Mary's Church choir.

He joined Skegness County Junior School requiring a one mile walk in both directions. Initially local children did not accept evacuees and integration was difficult. It was very common for the few London evacuee children to group together and separate from the locals. Mr. Hahn recalls that culturally they were "worlds apart". In time friendships did develop and integration was gradual. After the age of 11, he attended the Lumley School, (now closed and amalgamated with other secondary local schools). He recalls the Lumley school as very strict in comparison the that of London and few ever gave thought of truant! One day per week was dedicated to allotment education and work - this was part of the "Dig for Victory" scheme targeted to increasing the production of food. While the location of the allotment is not known, it was a short distance from the school.

Many local children wore clogs (wooden shoes) which he had never seen before and found quite amusing - no children in London wore clogs. He recalled the strange clattering noise that they made. He also recalled that new shoes were generally unobtainable in Skegness at that time due to the war and shortage of goods.

 

 

Summer days were happy days with plenty to do. Mr. Hahn frequently joined Mr. Backhouse on beach fishing expeditions. Long lines were set at low tide ( two distant poles driven into the sand with connecting line, hooks and bait), fish were always caught. Shrimp nets

were commonly used to trawl for shrimps and flat fish. Two persons would pull a wide net along the shoreline (one venturing as deep as possible into the sea). These ventures provided Mr. Hahn with pocket money, when shrimps were sold for 1/- (5p). It was very common at that time to see many other children participating in this activity.

Pocket money was also earned at the local Golf Course by caddying for golfers. There were often some 15 to 20 children providing such services. The children were awarded about 2/6 (two shillings and six pence in old money - now 12 1/2p), a reasonable sum at that time. Money was also earned by recovering and selling lost golf balls. Since golf balls were all but unobtainable during the war, they were a very valuable commodity and recovered balls were sold for 1/6 to 2/6 (now 7 !/2p to 12 1/2p) again a tidy sum at that time.

 

 

Local children became very "street wise" and occasionally hid in "Granny's Walk" (a public foot path crossing the golf course), carefully noting the location of balls following lost shots, to return later and quietly retrieve the respective balls. Many golf balls fell into gorse bushes and due to the spiky nature of the plant could not be recovered. One evening, it was decided to burn down such a bush to

Grannys Walk
Granny's Walk 2006

access the lost balls. This was attempted once, but never again, the lost golf balls burned with the bush!

In general, as at that time there was little in the way of entertainment for young persons, most spare time was spent earning money, and there were few venues in which it could be spent!

With a little trawling, caddying, casual farm work at Church Farm (at that time close to St. Mary's Church, Winthorpe), children (including Mr. Hahn) were able to earn reasonable pocket money. Mr. Hahn did not pay board to his relations, but recalls that in the little time he had to spend money, he bought extra food and enjoyed playing the slot machines ("one arm bandits"). There were no nearby shops to his home at that time.

Having never played football, cricket or other games in London Mr. Hahn expressed his delight in these participating in such games..

 

 

Referring to H.M.S Royal Arthur, (before the war and after the war, Butlins Holiday Camp. During the war, the camp was used as a Royal Navy land base), Mr. Hahn recalled on many occasions watching , hundreds of sailors walking the 2 1/2 miles along Roman Bank for a night out in Skegness . While there was a limited public bus service, there were very few cars or other forms of transport in those days. None of the caravan parks and thousands of caravans that occupy the area today existed. It may well have been a long, dark walk home along the then twisting and un-lit A52 for those sailors returning to base late at night . Mr. Hahn never visited H.M.S. Royal Arthur (Butlins) during this period.

Shopping and provisions were limited in Skegness, but Mr. Hahn did not recall a shortage of local vegetables. Occasionally, provisions were purchased from Boston (some 22 miles from Skegness) where a wider range of products were available. On very special occasions Lincoln was visited (40 miles from Skegness).

With respect to the war, Mr. Hahn recalled no attacks on the town from German aircraft (although Skegness was bombed during the war). He compared life in Skegness to that of London recalling his sad memories of a need to sleep in cold, damp blankets in dug-out Andersen Shelters and in the London Underground Railway system during the blitz.

 

 

In London gas masks were issued to all and it was not uncommon for the authorities to undertake frequent gas mask inspections. He did not remember any gas masks being issued in Skegness.

Some of the beaches in Skegness were protected by explosive mines and barbed wire. Such areas were clearly posted and avoided. Granny's Walk remained open throughout the war. Several defences including lookout towers and concrete "pill boxes" were located along the shore (many are still there to this day). In general, apart from the rationing of sweets and other goods, he recalled little evidence of the war in Skegness.

In terms of tourism, several influential visitors traveled to Skegness form London to play golf - thus the need for young caddies.

When scheduled to return to London in 1944 (which he rally looked forward to), the reunification was delayed due to the V1 and V2 rocket attacks on the capital.

 

 

Referring to his visit to the town at that time, asked what he missed the most, the reply was simply "The sea".

If you have war-time memories of Skegness pleased do not hesitate to share them with us.

 

 
See Also

Skegness 1930 - 1939

A brief History of Skegness

 

 

 

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