WWII Bournemouth

Bournemouth in World War II

At the beginning of WWII Bournemouth was declared a reception area, and plans were quickly underway to get children to the town for their safety. Interviews held in the sound archive at the Dorset History Centre tell us about the reality of this action for everyone involved.

John Young worked with the Bournemouth Education Office between 1931 and 1939. He helped deal with the large intake of children from Southampton. In an interview he talks about the preparations that were made for the arrival of children from neighbouring areas:

"Coming along to the actual events at the outbreak of war, Bournemouth at that stage was declared to be a reception area, a safe area; and plans were made for schools from Southampton to be evacuated so that children would be away from possible bombing of Southampton docks.

Bournemouth didn’t have much time to prepare for the children but a plan was made to get them settled in as quickly as possible. The evacuation began on Thursday 31 August 1939. Mr Young describes what initially happened:

"The children from Southampton came by train to Bournemouth and were delivered by bus to the various schools which were going to be the centres for the billeting. The children turned up and there was a register of houses where accommodation was available, having been prepared about two months earlier, and the children were allocated to various billets, taken by teachers in little groups and deposited. They were all given emergency rations to see them over the first evening."

Of course, not everything went as smoothly as they had hoped:

"The next two weeks I spent, as did my other colleagues, at the school to which we were allocated, in my case Hill View, reallocating children. They came out and shuttled to and fro something like returned empties from the milkman!"

Despite their situation many children who had been evacuated managed to keep thinking on the positive side. In another interview, Rosemary Taylor recalls her experiences as an evacuated child:

"1940 was a hard one but as we sometimes couldn't get to school we enjoyed snowballs on the frozen water meadows with the local children who were friendly but called us 'Vakies.'"

Oral history interviews about WWII and many other topics are available through the Dorset Sound Archive collection. This is held at the Dorset History Centre.