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War Memorials

LIFE IN BAMPTON BY A WARTIME EVACUEE

Joan Moore was 87 when she gave this interview to a local newspaper

 

TWO thousand evacuees of the Second World War got together recently for a reunion at a special Anniversary  Service at St Paul's Cathedral. Among those who attended was Joan Moore, 87, who spent her days as an evacuee child in Bampton and has fond memories of her time in the countryside she grew to love.

 

Joan remembers a dry, hot and confusing journey to Tiverton from her home in Stamford Hill, North London. She recalls finding herself among about two dozen other children, gathered in Tiverton Cattle Market, where evacuees were rounded-up and dispersed to their new homes within the Tiverton area. Joan said: "It was all bustle as children were ushered into the pens. There was a nurse who checked all the children for nits and fleas."

 

From here some of the evacuees were sent on to Bampton where they gathered in the orchard of the vicarage. The vicar at the time was a Mr Frayling, who was later to conduct Joan's marriage ceremony in 1957. Joan says Bampton residents then came to pick out children from the orchard and take them home.

 

Joan went to stay with the family of Bampton butcher Donald Vicary ."Although he was a butcher we didn't have extra meat," said Joan. "He was a very good man who always  looked after his customers."

 

Bampton Station in the 1940s

Bampton Station in the 1940s

Copyright owner not known but acknowledged

 

Joan remembers the Vicary household was always full of evacuated children, and their relatives, because it was used as a respite shelter from the bombings and air raids elsewhere in the country.

 

She went to the local primary school in Bampton where Mrs Cliff, the headmistress, "was an excellent teacher". This was followed by an education at Tiverton Grammar School and she made the journey there on the Exe Valley steam train.

 

"What a lovely ride that was!" says Joan.

 

She fondly recalls other memories of living in Mid Devon at that time.

 

"We used to walk 'in crocodile' to Tiverton Art Gallery for art lessons, and go swimming at the unheated pool in West Exe," she said. "The gallery was in the main street and was a proper art school with statues and easels. We would rush out to the West Exe pool to swim before catching the train home. The pool had wooden cubicles and the water was cold. Then we would run up the street and catch the train from West Exe."

 

Other happy times were had picking the first violets and primroses of spring, being in the girl guides and riding on Exmoor. Joan also remembers helping with the garden.

 

She explained: "No one kept flower beds or lawns back then. Gardens were dug up and used for growing food under the Digging for Victory initiative.

 

"When labour was short, school parties were taken to the fields to work on the potato harvest. This was finger-freezing, back-aching work, but contributing to the war effort was more important than any discomfort.

 

"On Sundays we paddled in the River Exe or walked along the train lines picking wild strawberries. I became very aware of the seasons."

A Dig for Victory poster from WW2
A Dig for Victory poster from the 1940s

 

Joan stayed with the Vicary family until the end of the war and returned to spend many holidays with them. She was married at St Michael & All Angels Church in Bampton, and continued visiting with her husband, and later, her children. She is still in touch with the Vicary family and remains grateful for their kindnesses.

 

Joan stated: "I was lucky to be sent to Devon where I developed a lasting love of the countryside."

 

 

 
 
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