Evacuation to Luton

When World War II started on September 1,1939 the family were all transferred to Luton together as part of ‘Operation Pied Piper’. The evacuation program was designed to protect civilians in Britain from aerial bombing by moving them from areas of high risk to safer locations.

The scheme relocated more than 3.5 million people during World War II. Ted, his mother, and brothers were five of them.

“We were more or less forced out in case the Germans bombed London,” Ted said.

“I don’t know how families were allocated; they just put us on trains and off we went. You could have been anywhere.”

After staying in Luton for some time, Ted’s mother decided to go back to London as there had been no bombing before Christmas. After returning to London, Ted’s mother worked in an ammunition factory. She only got to see her children occasionally.

“I maybe saw her half a dozen times in four years, not very often,” Ted said.

“All the women used to work like anything back in them days, because all the men were out fighting.

“About September of 1940 they got a bit serious and they constantly bombed for the next nine months. She stayed and worked through the whole thing.”

Although 30 miles was a long way for young Ted, it wasn’t a great distance for German planes dropping bombs. Luton was technically a safer location than London, but bombing still occurred

“There was a shelter in our backyard, and I spent a lot of nights sleeping there when the sirens went off,” Ted said.

“We had our air raid shelters at our school, and often the sirens would go o during the day. A number of houses were bombed, and people were killed.”

Ted didn’t see his father during World War II. Having had some army experience, his Ted Senior was enlisted and stationed in the southern part of England.

“My father I never saw at all for all of the war,” he said.

“Even though he was old they put him on the anti aircraft guns. He was in the army from 1920 until around 1929 so he knew what was going on.”

When Ted’s father left the army he got a job as a bus conductor.

“Pity he didn’t conduct an orchestra, he might have earned more money,” Ted joked.

“But this was right through the depression, so how lucky was he to have a job! There was something like 60–70 per cent unemployment. It was very high.”

During the war, and for a fair while afterward, England implemented a rationing system to deal with food shortages caused by a decrease in imports. As the country put itself back together residents were issued ration books for food staples such as butter and sugar.

Living through these conditions gave Ted an appreciation for things, and a ‘waste not want not’ attitude. Something his grandson Brodie would later experience.

“One memory that stands out to me was the time I put a bit too much tomato sauce on my plate,” Brodie said.

“Because Pop grew up in the war and didn’t like waste he made me lick the plate clean!”

Although times were no doubt tough during the war, young Ted supported himself admirably through a series of small regular jobs.

“I was never short of money because I had a paper round seven days a week — I earned 4 and 6 a week,” he said.

“I also had a job for the lady I was staying with, plus the lady next door to her, doing their shopping. They each used to pay me 2 and 6 a week. I had more money than some people who were in work! With that I managed kept myself in clothes.”