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Evacuees Arrive
With war just days away, London was protected
by sandbags while evacuation plans were readied.

Sunday Citizen June 2, 2002

For most schoolchildren, no doubt a history lesson is a prospect about as welcome as a political correctness advisor in a workingmen's club.

Yet if the subject is perhaps superimposed on a topic that will engage their sympathies, within a familiar environment and presenting an opportunity to relate with people having a first hand experience then - for a while - a flicker of interest might well be kindled, especially should the topic concern the local evacuees of World War Two.

As previously recounted, as international tensions increased, surveys were then undertaken to establish the number of evacuees to be accommodated by each community and with little more than a commendable sense of duty and a letter of thanks, this was duly carried out in Bletchley by the efforts of voluntary enumerators.

Under the Government scheme the distribution of blankets and mattresses had been made and for the storage of their allocation, at an all inclusive fee of 5s, Bletchley Council hired temporary accommodation in a building near the Lantern Cafe, in Bletchley Road.

As the Chief Evacuation Officer for the BUDC scheme the local headmaster, Mr Cook, gave the Council a full report of the measures in place.

As soon as a crisis arose, the evacuation train was scheduled to arrive from London at 1.43pm each day, with the complement of 822 children being met at Bletchley station by himself and other appointed officials.

On the first day the entire contingent would detrain for local billets but on the second day the batch would be transported to the Winslow Rural Area by road. On the third, 274 would remain in Bletchley with the rest dispersed to Winslow.

At least such was the initial plan but then a Ministry of Health Inspector called on Mr Sherwood to announce that a further 1500 might have to be catered for. After arriving at Bletchley station, children and their accompanying teachers and helpers would then proceed to Bletchley market for the receipt of their rations, the organisation of which fell to Miss Gascoigne, Mr Jones, Miss Wing and others.

Filing past long tables, especially set up for the purpose, issued with a carrier bag each child would receive a can of meat, a can of milk, lib of biscuits and l/4lb of chocolate with the adults qualifying for an extra can of meat.

With the town divided into zones, each under the charge of a marshall, after receiving their rations the assembly would then be parted off to their allocated marshalls and marched to the respective zones where, having handed over their billeting books they would be escorted to the various houses by helpers.

If for some reason accommo¬dation proved unavailable, then a guide would lead them to the Senior School, for the issue of further instructions.

As a procedure - after an initial settling in period - to deal with any problems, the helpers had organised themselves into a welfare organisation and should extra accommodation become needed then, under the Emergency Powers Act, Mr Cook was entitled to requisition whatever property he deemed necessary with any objections dealt with at a later date by a tribunal.

In accordance with the Bletchley plans, no buses would be required on the first day of evacuation but on the second, six would be waiting in Oliver Road, to make at least two journeys to the Winslow area.

Everything therefore seemed organised and awaiting the call - except, however, for a slight discrepancy that was encountered when the biscuit rations were first received - a shortfall of 317lb to be precise.

On further investigation it then transpired that some of the tins had been incorrectly marked, which reduced the figures to a more digestible 95lb!

By late August 1939, war was only days away and London had hastily prepared for the onset of bombing.

Bletchley was also prepared, with plans well advanced to receive evacuees from the capital.