Memories of an evacuee’s time in Barnwood, Gloucester by David Jones

We love hearing about individual peoples experiences in history. So obviously we were very excited when Peter Jones sent us the story of his fathers experience of being an evacuee.

Black and white photograph of a boy and girl sat on a bench
Photograph of David Jones and a local girl called Bobbie Peckham

My name is Peter Jones, I live in Gloucestershire. My dad David Jones was born on 12 March 1932 to parents William and Laura Jones (nee Hill) in Nechells, Birmingham. He was one of eight children and when war came in September 1939 they were evacuated to Barnwood in Gloucester. His two older siblings were of working age and stayed in Birmingham. Here follows his story (my comments in italics).

We went there by train, the farthest I’d been up till then on a train was to Sutton Park. Our first billet in Barnwood was a new semi in Collins Road, me and my brother Les slept on a double mattress on the floor in the small bedroom, the people were called Mr & Mrs Comley and she was pregnant with her first baby so an alternative billet was fairly urgent.

We moved to the Berchers family within a few days, they had a smallholding on Barnwood Road towards Hucclecote, we fell out with their teenage daughter so that became another short stay. We then went to live with Mr and Mrs Powell (Albert & Winifred) at the hospital laundry.

My sisters Margaret and Edna were billeted in a cottage opposite Barnwood Avenue marked X (map a bit out of scale) the distance between Lime Tree Drive and Barnwood Avenue was quite a bit longer, the fields between the Laundry and Barnwood Road were full of Christmas trees. We dug the air raid shelter trench and covered it while we lived there. The Powells were easily the nicest people we stayed with, they told us to call them Ma and Pa and treated us like their own. The house was quite big, so we had a completely empty bedroom as a playroom, we had a train set permanently out all over the floor.

Photograph of a hand drawn map of locations mentioned in the blog
Hand drawn map showing Barnwood Road

Mr Powell went to work and Mrs Powell was in charge of the laundry that dealt exclusively with the mental Hospital, I think Mr Peckham was the hospital engineer. I went to Barnwood Junior School with Margaret and Edna, Les went to Longlevens Senior School.

Mrs Powell used to take us into Gloucester shopping and we would have tea at the Bon Marche. They had friends George and Mary Orpin who had a 1936 Vauxhall 14, a reasonable sized car and the six of us would go to country pubs occasionally in the nice weather. Some Sundays we would go to visit Mrs Powells mother who lived in a cottage in Highnam, Mr Powell had a saddle on the crossbar of his bike with a pair of stirrups for me, I think that was the legal way to carry kids. Mrs Powell and Les had bikes so that was how we got to Highnam. 

My classroom at school had a big old-fashioned fireplace with a fire guard, it seemed quite cosy. The Germans dropped a H.E. bomb in the field behind the boiler house, it left quite a large crater.

We used to go for a walk with the Powell’s some Sunday afternoons they had a black dog called Jim. There was a man who stood on the flat roof of the hospital with a rod and line fishing in thin air, I think he was a resident.

The period September 1939 – summer 1940 was termed the “phoney war” as the expected blitz didn’t at first materialise. Dad returned to Birmingham in summer 1940 after which the blitz started in earnest & he was evacuated this time to Staffordshire.

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