BBC West Midlands
BBC Hereford and Worcester
When Ken Chadwick was evacuated at the start of the Second World War, his life was turned upside down. He talks to MARK ANDREWS from the Express and Star Newspaper about his new novel based on the experience
THE train arriving at Aston railway station was bound for Staffordshire. As far as five-year-old Ken Chadwick was concerned, it might as well have been the moon.
"They were packing us off to Staffordshire, so Hitler could bomb Birmingham, he says drily. "It seemed a million miles away from everything I knew."
Like thousands of children across the industrial heartlands of the West Midlands, young Ken was evacuated to the countryside at the start of the Second World War. The factories which had made Birmingham and the Black Country the workshop of the world were now crucial to Britain's defence industry, and as such would be prime targets for the Luftwaffe. It is an experience which has stayed with Ken for his entire life.
And now at the age of 79, he has decided to record his emotions on paper - in the form of a novel based on his experiences. The Evacueee: or Sins and Comeuppances, is a bittersweet account about sadness and the joys of a small boy being taken away from home. He stresses that it is a work of fiction, but it is all based on experiences that he went through during his three years as an evacuee; the kindliness of some people, the cruelty of others, and the survival instinct prevalent in children of a certain age, which means they can adapt to whatever life throws at them.
Ken, who served for 12 years in the Royal Navy before forming his own construction firm, hopes that the book will strike a chord with other people who went through similar experiences. While other stories about life of the evacuee paint idyllic pictures of a carefree childhood, while the adults busy themselves with the concerns of the war, his book is a bittersweet tale of highs and lows, which he says reflects his feelings at the time.
"People say they went to live on a farm and had a wonderful time, spending the summer in the fields, but that wasn't my experience," he says.
"I was not a happy child, and three years seemed an extremely long time, but at the same time it was not all bad."
He talks about the troubled woman who took him in, scorching him before a roaring fire, and encouraging her own son to brand him with a red-hot pea shooter. She taught him to dread bath days by holding his head underwater.
"But then the happy parts were things like plum picking, watching the fire brigade putting out fires, scrumping apples and adventures around the farms and the canals," says Ken, who now lives in Tenbury Wells.
"And being a child of that age, certainly at that time, is that you don't know anything else. You think it is normal, and you survive."
by Express and Star