Evacuees from Tynemouth
BELLINGHAM PLAYED HOST TO ITS YOUNG VISITORS
THE FIRST DAY IN BELLINGHAM FOR EVACUEES EVA AND IVOR FROM TYNEMOUTH
7 a.m. Even after a night’s sleep, Eva feels exhausted. The bed is strange and she has not slept well. Everything is so quiet. She is not used to silence and it makes her nervous. She used to wake up to the sound of trains going past and traffic. Now it is nothing. She wakes Ivor and they look around their strange new bedroom. It seems so different in the daylight. Eva stares at their possessions in the large suitcase while Ivor opens his own little suitcase and picks at the toys. Eva remembers the tears as their mother packed the suitcases yesterday morning. What is she doing now? Is she missing them? Then she thinks of last night when they nervously joined their new family in their new home for the first time. It all seems so long ago now. What a difference a day makes! But at least they are together and can look after each other. So they get dressed and prepare to meet Mr. and Mr. Armstrong who plucked them from the crowd of evacuees who arrived at Bellingham station yesterday evening.
This is the beginning of a story. What happens next, children? It’s all in your imagination!
Despite the novelty of what seemed like an adventure, many children
suddenly realised that they were on their own.
Mindful of the German bombing of Hartlepool and other exposed towns on the East Coast, twenty-five years earlier, and fearful of similar attacks, possibly with the use of gas, the authorities on Tyneside, from Newcastle eastwards, had been preparing for the evacuation of school children, mothers with children of School Age or under and expectant mothers for many months, or even years. Provision was also being made for aged and blind people, the infirm and invalids.
At Tynemouth, these plans were put into action on 6th-9th September 1939 with the evacuation of 1,908 children from local schools, with 206 of these being destined for Bellingham, though some parents had second thoughts about sending their children away and many children were brought back home as the dangers appeared to ease. For the moment, however, morale boosting headlines carried “Tynemouth’s Tiny Evacuees off to Safety Zones. No Tears as “Plucky Little Crowd” Start Big Adventure.” By 10th September, a reporter from the North Shields Evening News had visited evacuees in Wark and at the Bellingham Youth Hostel and had reported that everything was in good order with the headline “Bellingham Folk take Tynemouth Evacuees to their Hearts.” Brownrigg Camp School, a mile from Bellingham, was also requisitioned for use by (girl) evacuees. Many children took to country living with enthusiasm but, for some, the novelty of their new adventure soon wore off: many children longed to be back with their parents and, similarly, parents with their children.