Gas masks in small cardboard boxes, a few belongings in carrier bags and my younger brother Geoff and I were on a train bound for pastures new. Evacuated to Leicestershire.
And neither of us wanted to go!
For the first time in our young lives we were separated; Geoff went to live with a family about a mile or so away from where I was billeted. Not a good start, and it was to get worse.
We went to the same local school and we stuck together whilst there more firmly than ever. The local kids seemed to have been trained to dislike us. We were mocked as "Evarrrk-u-eeeeees" and they didn't take kindly to our South London dialect. We were treated as aliens or illegal immigrants, and we were threatened with physical violence ... and one day it happened. Some young lad stepped in and threw a punch at Geoff, and it just missed his head. That was it! We both went for this lad with flailing arms and legs and bundled him to the ground. He started to cry. We stood back and let him get to his feet. He turned and ran off.
The few kids who witnessed that attempt to have a go at Geoff and me started to amble away. Nobody seemed anxious to get involved with us after that little episode and it seemed we were to be treated with some caution. In fact, we started to take the mickey out of some of these local kids, mimicking their accent. For example, we used to say to them something like: "You going on't boozz back home?" - stressing the word bus as boozz.
After about a fortnight the police came to my billet, asking me if I knew where Geoff was. I had no idea what they meant; they explained that he was missing from where he was lodged. I knew he was unhappy living with that family. Next day he was found, trying to walk back to Croydon! He was taken back to his billet house, a very unhappy lad. He ran away again a few weeks later and again was caught by the police. The upshot was we were both sent back home to Hathaway Road. A happy ending to our brief encounter with evacuation!