7 July 2017
Resident shares her story of life during WW2
Merle Davies, 94, who lives at Ty Enfys, our care home in Cardiff, South Wales, has shared her experience of being evacuated during World War II.
I was 18 years old when I was evacuated to Newquay, Cornwall, from Bergman-Österberg Physical Training College in Kent, where I was training to be a PE teacher. Naturally, I was nervous about moving, but my fellow students were evacuated to the same place as me, so we were all together and could support each other.
Unlike most, I did not stay with a family when I was evacuated. Around 30 of my school friends and I were sent to a hotel to finish our studies, with the teachers keeping an eye on us. Unfortunately, this hotel was not that nice, but regardless, I still had a good time there.
My favourite thing about the hotel was that they had a garage, which they had transformed into a gymnasium for all of us students to keep training so we did not fall behind in our work. I was always an enthusiastic sports student and particularly enjoyed playing hockey and lacrosse.
I remember my school work being difficult, and it took three years to gain my teaching qualifications. As well as all of the physical training we had to do, we also spent two years on all of the theory work for my exams, being taught things about anatomy and physiology. I was very concerned that I would not pass these exams, but I was proud of myself when I discovered that I passed and could move on to my dream career as a PE teacher after the war was over!
I did have to leave Newquay temporarily for three months during the war because Newquay did not have enough grammar schools to teach us everything that we needed to know, so I moved back to Kent and stayed with a very nice family. Kent was very different to Newquay during the war, and the people were a lot more concerned about bombings! There was no telling when a bomb could have landed because we were fairly near an air base but, during the time that I was there, we were lucky to not be bombed that much. It was still quite strange, moving from Newquay, because Cornwall never seemed as impacted by the war as Kent was – the rationing was not even that noticeable in comparison!
I look back at my time as an evacuee fondly. I enjoyed Newquay and all of the things that the Cornwall beaches had to offer. I was known for swimming in the sea no matter how cold the weather was, and I enjoyed still being able to continue playing all my favourite sports and bike around the Cornish countryside.
I was sad that my parents never came to visit, but it was a 12-hour journey from my home in Treorchy, South Wales, so I did not blame them. I did miss them terribly and I tried to write as many letters as I could, but there was very little contact apart from when I was allowed to go home during the holidays. I enjoyed going home because I got to see my family and friends but also because, as part of my school uniform, we had to wear a cloak, and I used to wear it all the time when I was at home, as it made me feel like royalty!
After the war, and after I had finished my training, I moved back to Wales, where I got my first teaching job in Port Talbot. Teaching PE was not like it is now where you work at one school – I was working between two schools and had to cycle between the two after my lessons. These schools did not have fields, so there were times when I took my students to the beach so I could teach them more outside games. Not all of them were very good at sports, but it was great to see all of the students who participated trying so hard.
I also met my husband, Prothero, while teaching as he was working at one of the schools I was teaching in. We went on to have two children and raise them in South Wales. They’ve grown up now and had children of their own, so now I’m a great-grandmother!
I enjoyed my job as a teacher and retired in my mid-50s to look after my husband and mother. I spend my time now keeping active by engaging in as many activities as I can, speaking to lots of different people and keeping up with my grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the internet, some of whom live overseas.
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