[26] Earith WW2 and evacuees

Table of Contents for: Earith WW2 and evacuees

In a recent interview with the local British Legion Branch Chairman, John (known to all his mates as Jack) Wales, Dave Brown [i] received a magnificent insight into what the lives and times were like for a youngster in this area at the outbreak of the Second World War, as well as him doing ‘his bit’ for King and Country.

Livestock farming

Although Earith is still a rural community, in those days it relied even more heavily on farming and the livestock business.

Indeed Jack’s father and his father before him were calf dealers, and along with many others in the area, they would keep four or five cows in a small holding on the fen, to supplement their meagre agricultural earnings.

Hackney horses

Jack’s father even bred Hackney horses, and regularly they would both go to all the local markets, to buy and sell their animals.

(Here’s what Wikipedia says about these magnificent animals):

The Hackney Horse breed was developed in the 14th century in Norfolk when the King of England required powerful but attractive horses with an excellent trot, to be used for general purpose riding horses. Since roads were rudimentary in those times, Hackneys were a primary riding horse, riding being the common mode of equine transportation. The trotting horses were more suitable as war horses than amblers with their pacing gaits.”

Hackney horse, Wikipedia [iii]
High Street, Earith looking west.
High Street, Earith looking west. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Horses were common, not only in the fields, but as the only form of transport, and for Jack along with all the local lads, it was second nature how to handle and look after them.

His affinity with horses has remained with him all his life.

Born, bred and educated in Earith, Jack fully expected to follow the family traditions, but when War broke out he was just 14, and by that time he had progressed to Huntingdon Grammar School.

At the foot of this page is John’s school report for 28th July 1939.

Evacuees from London

During the war, a whole London school was evacuated to Earith including the teachers. [2]
Local residents took in these children and separate classrooms were set up in the village hall, classes being divided by a curtain.
It was hard to concentrate and the class going on behind the curtain was sometimes a lot more interesting.

The standard of schooling was lower as there were hardly any facilities and pupils found they missed London.
Some children did not stay for long and returned to London quite early in the war years, others stayed after the war and eventually married into local families.

A few people looked on those evacuation years with affection and returned to the area later in their lives.

Johns school report.
Johns school report. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

[i] Extract from ‘One Man’s Story: John Wales’ by Dave Brown
[ii] Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)
[iii] ‘Hackney Horse’ Wikipedia

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