Ben Howard

Photo:Pupils lined up for a roll call outside one of the buildings at Sayers Croft Camp.

Pupils lined up for a roll call outside one of the buildings at Sayers Croft Camp.

Ben Howard

Photo:Pupil having breakfast in the dining hall at Sayers Croft Camp.

Pupil having breakfast in the dining hall at Sayers Croft Camp.

Ben Howard

Photo:Four murals were painted on each side of the dining hall by the pupils. The murals depict the four seasons of the year and are today registered as war memorials.

Four murals were painted on each side of the dining hall by the pupils. The murals depict the four seasons of the year and are today registered as war memorials.

Ben Howard

Outbreak of war

Ben Howard recalls the outbreak of war

Sayers Croft Camp

Ben Howard talks about evacuation to Sayers Croft Camp

Life in Sayers Croft Camp

Ben Howard talks about life in Sayers Croft Camp

'We saw it burn'

Ben Howard recalls seeing London being bombed

Recollections of evacuation to Sayers Croft Camp

From Catford to Ashford

On Saturday 2 September 1939, Ben Howard, as one of many school children from Catford Central School for Boys, travelled by train from Catford to Ashford in Kent to escape the heavy bombing of London expected at the outbreak of war.  Although little happened in ways of aerial bombardments in the first months of the war, Ben remained in Ashford where he was billeted with Mr and Mrs Cook and attended school with his class mates every afternoon at the local school. As a result of the developments on the continent, the school was re-evacuated from Ashford to Sayers Croft Camp in Ewhurst, Surrey, in May 1940.

Sayers Croft Camp

Sayers Croft Camp had been built by the National Camps Corporation in the 1939 to allow city children to visit and learn about the countryside.  The camp had just about been completed when Ben and his fellow school mates, numbering around 200 children, arrived in May 1940.  Ben had a ‘marvellous evacuation’ and stayed at Sayers Croft until 1943 when he completed his education. He recalls how much of the teaching took place outside, ‘games, football and cricket and storm ball, long walks, nature studies, chasing butterflies, all sorts of things [...] It was [like] a holiday all the time [...] It was a really good evacuation as far as I was concerned’.  

However, Ben recalls that the war was never far away: ‘In September 1940 during the great raid on the docks, we all stood on a high point of a field and [...] saw the red glow. Being young, you were a bit awestruck by it but you didn’t really recognise the actual danger. But we watched it burn’.

Assisting the war effort

The children at the camp were also active in assisting the war effort. Ben remembers that the children were responsible for ‘allotments and you could grow radishes because [they] were easy to plant, grew quickly and easy to eat. [...] We also did war work planting cabbages [and] collecting fox gloves for medical reasons’.

Returning home

Ben eventually returned to London in 1943 after four years evacuation and he recalls that he had mixed feelings about returning home:  ‘I wanted to go back home obviously. I wanted to go there’s no doubt about that. I wanted to be back with my mother and father. [But] there was also a great deal of reluctance to leave school, really. It was a lot of reluctance to leave that life’. In London, Ben worked with his father for about a year before joining the Royal Engineers in the early months of 1945. He served in Italy for two years before being demobilised.

Downloads

Interview with Ben Howards
Interview with Ben Howards (119k)
To read the full transcript of Ben's interview please press the above link.

From Brownhill to Pitch Hill
From Brownhill to Pitch Hill (1474k)
An account of wartime evacuation to Sayers Croft Camp - Compiled by Ben Howard

Outbreak of war
Outbreak of war (57k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip please press the above link.

Evacuation to Sayers Croft Camp
Evacuation to Sayers Croft Camp (57k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip please press the above link.

Life in Sayers Croft Camp
Life in Sayers Croft Camp (52k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip please press the above link

'We saw it burn'
'We saw it burn' (129k)
To read the transcript of the audio clip please press the above link

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 09/06/2013.

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