Cornwall

Mousehole evacuees return 70 years after arriving

Children on boat in Mousehole harbour
Image caption Evacuees said were taught how to sail and fish

Evacuees who were sent from London's East End to Mousehole in Cornwall have returned 70 years after first arriving.

Hundreds of children were evacuated from large cities to the safety of the English countryside in 1940 at the start of World War II.

One hundred Jewish children from the Jews' Free School (JFS) in the East End were sent to Mousehole.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary, former evacuees made the train journey from London Paddington to Penzance.

Evacuee Arnold Powell said: "I came here exactly 70 years ago today.

"It's very, very strange because when we arrived it was much later in the day.

Image caption Some evacuees thought the move to Cornwall was a "lovely holiday"

"I can remember coming around the bay as we saw Marazion in the distance, feeling very excited because this was a sandy beach and it was going to be a lovely holiday.

"Sand and sea, but when we arrived I was rather disappointed that no one was there to offer us ice cream, the goodies one normally experienced when going to the seaside."

At Penzance railway station all the children from London were put on coaches and driven to Mousehall, where families collected them from the local hall.

Mr Powell said: "We were put on three coaches and whisked via the harbour.

"I remember seeing the boats with the letter PZ and asking what the letters stood for, then going through Newlyn and finally to Mousehole.

"It seemed as though we were travelling on for ever and ever."

Betty Posnor said: "I remember the day we arrived. We went to this hall, and people came in, and gradually the people standing in the hall left.

"Families didn't want two children, but nevertheless the family did take up the two of us and we stayed for a couple of years.

"Everybody thought that they were the last one to be picked."

The JFS children were billeted with the villagers, and the Jews' Free School, Mousehole, was established in the premises of Mousehole School.

Arrangements were made for synagogue services to be held in the church hall of a nearby village, while many of the evacuees also attended chapel with their foster families, most of whom were strong Methodists.

Image caption The evacuees recalled learning about country life

The majority of the evacuees were also taught about country life and what went with it.

Jean Harris said: "I remember being taught how to mend the fishing nets round the harbour, I remember clambering over the rocks, it was delightful - I loved it."

Connie Stanton said: "In no time at all they were all village children together.

"They played up in the fields, they went blackberry picking, the boys played in the harbour and some of our village boys taught them how to scull."

Susan Soyinka, an author who has written about the history of the evacuees, said: "Most of these children came from poor immigrant backgrounds, as many of their grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe.

"Many had never seen the sea before, so imagine coming here, where they learnt to swim, to sail, to fish, they were loved greatly and became integrated into the community."