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Local historian John Taylor continues his series looking at life in Bletchley during the second world war

Evacuees WW2
The old mill at Water Eaton.
The mill pond was a favoured bathing place but claimed the life of a young evacuee.

Sunday Citizen September 1, 2002

As the result of the upheavals caused by the start of the second world war, several young evacuee children met their early deaths in Bletchley.

Among the first of these was a seven-year-old boy, who drowned in the disused reservoir at the back of North Street and Western Road.

Evacuated from Essex Road, Islington, he was staying in North Street. Although warned not to go by the water, he went fishing for tadpoles and despite the urgent attentions of a local doctor, could not be revived.

Messing about in the water also claimed the life of another evacuee, a 12-year-old boy who for some 18 months had been staying in Watling Terrace. One evening he accompanied a local boy to the popular swimming venue at the Mill Pond, Water Eaton, but having managed a few strokes, then got into difficulty and tried to hold onto his companion's bathing costume. When this tore, he lost his grip and went under and although an older boy immediately dived to the rescue, the body could not be revived.

Ironically, at one time there had been suggestions that the Council should take over Mill Pond and make it suitable and safe as a public bathing place.

Primarily, this had been in view of a report, by the Medical Officer, expressing concern at the state of the river, and the owner of the pond had even agreed to let in fresh water and allow the dangerously deep hole in the middle to be filled in.

However, due to the wartime conditions, nothing was done and the pond remained in its previous condition, with the only alternative being the even more dangerous Denbigh Road gravel pits, 17 feet deep near the bank and 30 feet deep elsewhere.

Not only children of course were evacuated to the town and from natural causes one elderly gentleman died who, as a coincidence, had been a personal friend of the Rev C Spurgeon, after whom the Baptist Church at Fenny had been named.

Another Londoner, now evacuated to Brooklands Road, was Mr Fred McQuillin who, for his gallantry during the Blitz, received the OBE from the King at Buckingham Palace. As the leader of a rescue party, on being told a family of six were buried under the rubble of their home, despite continued bombing he and his party worked for three hours and eventually saved the occupants, the last two from under 18 feet of earth and rubble in the cellar.

Rather more tragic, during her duties as a night porter at Bletchley Station, a woman evacuated from Islington 12 months earlier was struck by a train and killed, while pulling a truck of mail sacks from no. 7 platform to the general post office.

She left two small children, who had been living with her at Denbigh Road.

In every town there could be found similar tales of heartbreak and misery, but by the measure of the modern yardstick if only we could have been first into the ruins of Berlin and if only Adolf hadn't pulled that trigger, then he could have perhaps looked forward to an intensive treatment of state-funded psychotherapy and the prospect of peacefully ending his days in a cosy twilight home for the criminally deranged.