Category Archives: WW2


Ballet 3
Joint performance by Royal Ballet School and Dagenham Park C OF E School

A wonderful crisp spring afternoon at The White Lodge in Richmond Park with performances together and separately by children from the Royal Ballet School and from Dagenham Park Church of England School, a partnership under the auspices of the aDvANCE project which offered collaboration between the Royal Ballet School and  people learning dance in different contexts.

The standard achieved in terms of both movement and musicality by both groups was amazing. They had clearly learned much from each other. I am old enough to have seen Margot Fonteyn dance on the stage but rarely have I seen such an exciting performance. The children from the RBS were lithe – the girls all with their hair pulled tight in a bun at the top of their heads and the boys with short – not shaved – hair. The children from Dagenham C of E school ranged from slender to frankly plump with frizzy hair, hair in cornrows, some bleached and some straight.
After only a term’s coaching they had achieved coherence and style. The ideas came from the children and edited into performance standard by the RBS choreographer. They danced to Over You and On the Nature of Daylight, while the RBS children danced to the Mazurka from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Percussion by Don Ricardo Garcia. Their joint performance was to excerpts from Swan Lake.

Sitting in Richmond Park within easy reach of Central London, The White Lodge looked at its best, herds of deer grazing in the distance. The building  was originally constructed as a hunting lodge for George ii, and particularly memorable for me were the painted portraits and photographs of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who lived there while they were still the Duke and Duchess of York. Growing up in London, as I did during WW2, I have very fond memories of the Pathé News showing the King and Queen visiting the East End bomb sites I knew only too well. When two bombs landed in the courtyard of Buckingham Palace the Queen said  “I am glad we have been bombed. It makes me feel we can look the East End in the face“.

Once upon a wartime

Evacuated to Devon 1941

In 1939 I was evacuated to Littleport (2 billets) in Cambridgeshire and then to Ely, and in 1942 to Dawlish in South Devon.

Excerpt  from my memoir Woman in a White Coat
Operation Pied Piper’, the plan for the evacuation of children from areas likely to be bombed, was in place long before WW2 was declared. People in safe areas with spare bedrooms were urged to take in evacuees. They would be paid 10/6d for the first child and 8/6d for subsequent children. Nearly a million children were evacuated on Friday September 1st 1939. Trains were taken over, and London railway stations were packed with children.
Parents had been given a list of clothing to pack. Girls needed 1 spare vest, 1 pair of knickers, 1 petticoat, 1 slip, 1 blouse, 1 cardigan, a coat or Mackintosh, nightwear, a comb, towel, soap, face-cloth, boots or shoes and plimsolls. We were also to take food for the train journey: sandwiches, packets of nuts and seedless raisins, dry biscuits, barley sugar, an apple and an orange.
I was seven, nearly eight and my sister, Hannah, was thirteen. Hannah hadn’t yet started at her grammar school, so she came with me to my school. She carried the cardboard suitcase we shared. Our gas masks in their square brown boxes hung on a tape around our necks, and we had labels tied through our buttonholes with our name and evacuee number printed in large letters. Our teachers marched us to Liverpool Street station and onto the train to Littleport. Some mothers and a few fathers came to the school with their children. Hannah and I were alone.
‘I don’t need to go with you,’ my mother said. ‘You’re old enough to go on your own. I’ve put a stamped and addressed postcard in your case. Mind you send me your address as soon as you’re settled.’
No kiss goodbye. Nothing.