The war and especially the London Blitz brought many evacuees and school children to seek safety in Hemyock. This page contains memories of how Hemyock welcomed this influx. Some never left; others returned. It is an extract from the book Memories of War. Other pages in this series:
Hemyock was a small and peaceful village. Most people were employed in the local area, many in agriculture. Everyone knew everyone else, practically anything could be bought or mended in the village. With the outbreak of war life began to change. Daily work and life still continued despite the fact that Hemyock was surrounded by airfields and army camps.
With the outbreak of war, nine official evacuees were already in the village and came to the school. In February 1940 the local billeting officer Mr Lowry with the help of the local committee had very short notice that they were to expect 18 children from (RC) LCC School (Stepney) London. Every house in Hemyock was visited by the committee to check how many rooms were not in use. This was to determine the number of children the household was to be allocated. It was compulsory to take them, unless there were exceptional circumstances. Soon one teacher, Miss de Lacey came from London. Host families were given 10 Shillings per week for each evacuee to help towards their keep, together with a camp bed and a blanket for each one.
As tension increased in France just before the Dunkirk evacuation of troops, the school was ordered to cancel the Whitsun holiday and reassemble. A large contingent of evacuees, 121 and 4 teachers arrived by train at Hemyock station. They were from Hazelbury Senior Girls School (Edmonton) London and were billeted all around Hemyock. Mr Prouse the Headmaster decided to merge the two schools together. The four teachers Misses Turner, Mortimore and Southwaite would combine to teach classes of town and country children. The number at school now reached over 300. The Village Hall was taken over with a curtain across the centre to make two classrooms. The Church and Methodist rooms were also taken over. In February 1941 the bombing campaign switched from London to the provincial cities and 31 more children with their teacher Mr Howard arrived. By the end of that year (1941) some evacuees returned home to their families.
Even using every available public building in Hemyock (the Parish Hall, Methodist Church Room, Parish Church Hall) there was a shortage of space. Some residents who were at school during the war years recall going crocodile fashion from one building to another using the buildings in shifts. Teachers would take classes for long nature walks to create classroom space for other classes.
The school children would often go out to collect from the hedgerows for the war effort. For example they would collect foxgloves which would be sent off to make the drug digitalis, during the primrose season they would gather bunches that they would pack up with moss in cardboard boxes. These were despatched to hospitals for the patients. During the Autumn they gathered rose hips to be made into rose hip jelly (to provide vitamins). Classes would go out with their teachers with baskets and tins to scour the hedgerows. School children of the time enjoyed these expeditions as they were preferable to lessons in the over-crowded classrooms!
By July 1944 the Germans had a new weapon, the flying bomb also called the V1 buzz bomb. As a result of this new threat a further 26 evacuees arrived, also some of their parents. They too were billeted around the village As time went on the bombing got less and the evacuees started to return home.
Many families in Hemyock received these often frightened, apprehensive and homesick children few of whom had been to the countryside before. Mrs Edgar Lowman had two boys just after she was married. The Granger family at Cornhill had two, the Blackmore family (Mrs Ruth Tartaglia's family) up at Bodhams Farm had four evacuees, the Elmes family at Culm Davy House had several, as did the Payne family at Castle Farm, to mention just a few of the many Hemyock households that provided not just shelter and accommodation but a substitute family.
Many of these evacuees still visit or keep in touch with their host families. For example Mrs Gunn still hears from one of her family's evacuees who now lives in Canada but still returns to visit the Gunns in Hemyock. Three evacuees, Eddie Tartaglia, John Dimmock and his sister Betty Arnold, still live in Hemyock today.
The memories were published originally in 1995 as a 65 page, A4 booklet, illustrated with many photographs. All profits went to the Royal British Legion.
The text has been extensively re-edited and republished in Amazon Kindle format, in aid of Hemyock's Blackdown Support Group charity, it is equivalent to about 115 A5 pages. The photographs have been made into online slideshows.
For convenience, the photos have been arranged in four groups, forming four slide shows, each lasting about four minutes. The slide shows have been uploaded as 1080p HD. This means that they can be viewed using most types of computer or mobile devices and at any of the resolutions supported by YouTube. Contact us for a DVD version of these slideshows, or versions in other formats.
Hemyock Castle, Hemyock, CULLOMPTON, Devon, EX15 3RJ, UK.
© 2001–2015. Prepared and published by Curlew Communications Ltd