Were you evacuated from Eastbourne in Second World War?


The recent centenary of the end of the First World War has seen an upsurge in interest in local history.

Some amateur historians are now starting to think of what happened locally during World War Two.

After all, survivors of the Second World War are still alive.

In the first few months of WW2 many children were evacuated from their homes to avoid the risk of air raids. Best known of these were London’s East End children being sent off to the surrounding countryside, Hertfordshire for instance, but also to Eastbourne.

A year later the tables were turned; Eastbourne itself became a possible invasion zone. So by September 1940 more than 3,000 local children had been evacuated to Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire an elsewhere. What happened to those children is of course of interest to historians both here in Eastbourne and in Hertfordshire where the children were sent, the town of Sawbridgeworth for instance.

Thanks to research from Sawbridgeworth historians some interesting photographs have now come to light. Just look at the photograph above printed in the Eastbourne Herald of September 7 1940.

The picture from the British Library Newspaper Archive was rather blurry but was improved thanks to Katherine Buckland, Heritage Eastbourne’s engagement officer at Eastbourne council.

Michael Ockenden, a member of the Eastbourne Local History Society, immediately recognized Mr SK Veale, the silver haired gent standing at the back, who was the headmaster of St Saviour’s School and later a form master at Eastbourne Grammar School.

And as the Herald reported at the time, children from St Saviour’s were indeed evacuated to the East Hertforshire town. Mr Veale must have accompanied his pupils.

Sawbridgeworth was not the only place in Hertfordshire where Eastbourne children were evacuated.

Christ Church children were sent to Baldock, All Souls’ boys ended up in Watford, Bedewell boys and girls went to Bishops Stortford while St Philip’s infants went there as well.

Eastbourne Grammar School and Eastbourne High School went to Hitchin. Abbotts Langley and Radlett also hosted Eastbourne children.

Naturally both groups of local historians want to know what happened to the Eastbourne children in Sawbridgeworth.

Both in Sawbridgeworth and in Eastbourne efforts are being made to identify the boys and girls.

So if you were one of those evacuee children or know a friend who was one, contact the Eastbourne Local History Society at maureencopping@yahoo.co.uk or indeed the Sawbridgeworth Local History Society at theo@vandebiltcouk. Further details of both societies can be found at www.sbwhistory.com and at www.eastbournehistory.org.uk.