Reproduced from Timewitnesses.org
My name is Malcolm and my home was in the east end of London. I was five years old when I was evacuated with my school to Tonypandy, South Wales. It was a long way from London. I can’t recall my mother or other members of my family telling me anything about there going to be a war coming. Nor was there any warning that I was going to be sent away to live with strangers far from home. I can remember the day I left my home in London because my mother and her two sisters were crying at the bus stop. My three cousins and I jumped on a bus to go to the railway station. I couldn’t understand why they were all crying. Looking back on that day, I was too young to understand what was happening to my family. It was unreal – the crying, my cousins, the bus then the long train journey. Once on the train, all I can remember was how long the journey was. I felt tired and hungry and wondered where I would sleep that night. My three cousins were older than me so I guess they could talk to each other and help each other. Although they looked after me on the journey, I do recall feeling lonely and lost. Eventually, the train stopped at Cardiff, and we were taken to a church hall in the middle of the city where we spent the night sleeping on the floor. I can remember looking around and seeing my school friends dotted around the hall, that made we feel better. The next day we were taken in an open topped truck on the last part of the journey up a valley. I can’t remember how long it took but I remember seeing green mountains each side of the valley. I had never seen countryside like this before. Off the truck, I can remember a lady walking me up a steep hill with rows of houses each side. Without saying a word to me she let go of my hand and walked away down the road. There was no- one in sight. What seemed like hours to me, a lady came rushing down from the front of the house and saw me standing all by myself at the bottom of the steps. She picked me up and took me into the kitchen. She was very upset that I had been left alone in a strange country at five years old. That was the only sad part of being an evacuee. This lady and her husband took great care of me for the next two years. These good people were called Mr and Mrs Thomas, they told me to call them aunty and uncle. They had a grown daughter who lived at home because her husband was in the forces. They were very affectionate and loving towards me but I felt the daughter was jealous of their affection. She had lost the baby she was expecting so that was probably the reason why I felt her hostility The house I lived in was quite big but it had no inside bathroom. . Bath night and hair washing took place every Friday night, however, Mr Thomas was a coal miner and came home each day black all over. When I saw him black all over I didn’t recognise who it was when he spoke to me So bath night was a daily event for him. The bath was a long metal bath that hung on the wall outside the kitchen. Lots of kettles were needed to fill the bath which took place in front of the fire. All of this was very strange to me because we had an indoor bath and toilet at home in London. After a while I got used to this new way of life. The Thomas family went to a Baptist chapel every Sunday. Mrs Thomas wrote to my parents and asked my mother if I could go with them, as I was a Jew. This worked out well as I attended chapel with the Thomas’ on Sunday and then attended a small synagogue two evenings a week to learn Hebrew. The only awkward thing that caused concern from my parents when they visited me, was they noticed that I was underfed. I had a fast metabolism that caused me to be underweight. This was soon put right and no harm remained. Two years later I returned to my home in London where to the amusement of the family I had adopted a very Welsh accent. I was in constant demand to speak to everyone – just to hear my accent. Just imagine I was still only seven years when I returned home. The war was still on but the whole family stayed together through it until peace returned.