AN evacuee from London in 1939 is hoping to find the family he stayed with in Melksham during the Second World War.
Just short of his eighth birthday, George Gibbons was evacuated from London. He was bought to Melksham, travelling by train surrounded by other children and was placed in the care of a mother who had three children of her own, a girl and two boys and a husband who was in the RAF.
While on a cruise last month, George had a chance meeting with a man from Melksham who suggested he contacted Melksham News to see if we could help track down any of the family he stayed with during the war.
George said, “I have some very happy memories of Melksham and 20 years ago my wife and I went back there but, apart from the school building I could not find where I had been accommodated. Everywhere seemed to be covered in houses and it was like living in London again. Many black marks to the developers and town planners because I think that had destroyed a lovely little town in Wiltshire.
“After leaving London in 1939 and put on a train, not knowing where we were going, we arrived in Melksham.
“We then all lined up in front of a large number of ladies who started to choose the children until I was the last one left. Fortunately, I was eventually chosen by a very nice lady.
“I can’t remember how we got to her house but I know that it was a very nice house on the other side of a meadow that you accessed through a turnstile-type gate, and myself and her two boys regularly played by the river.
“I really enjoyed myself there, the countryside being so different to the asphalt jungle where I normally lived. I was made very welcome by all the family even though they had difficulty understanding my cockney accent.
“Their house was not very far from the town centre and I remember we had to cross the meadow and turn left into the town. The high street was not very wide and always had Bren Gun Carriers moving up and down slowly.
“It was not very far to the school which was in the High Street, about halfway down on the right and It may have just been a Church Hall. The one teacher was of the 20th century vintage and, to me, seemed very strict because I don’t think that he liked young children with a funny accent, because I was usually being punished for getting my lessons wrong.I definitely did not like the teacher, who I thought was a 1900s bully. Our neighbour’s daughter who was over 8 years old didn’t like the school either, so she convinced me that we should both go back home to London – so that’s what we did one lovely afternoon.
“We started to walk home, not knowing how far it was and in which direction. However, we enjoyed our walk thinking that we should soon be home, when we were stopped in a small village by a police car and the sergeant asked us where we were going.
“We told him that we were going to visit our grandma but he took us back to Melksham. We found out later that we had just got to the outskirts of Box. My lovely family in Melksham were very upset because they thought that it was their fault but nothing could have been further from the truth.
“I was very happy there but I had been led astray by an older girl who was probably very homesick, something that I have never experienced.
“Once I had gone back to London in September 1939 the war had started, but it was the beginning of what was known as the phony war, so I completely lost touch with the three children and I can’t even remember their names..
“I now live in a small country town eight miles north-east of Peterborough but I have never forgotten my cockney roots.”
If you think you may be a family member of the family who looked after George, you can contact him on george .gibbons@yahoo. co.uk.