My story


3. Elsie


Wednesday 13th September 1939


Dear: Diary,


I don’t feel sad about leaving. I don’t feel guilty about not feeling sad either. I want to get away from London as soon as possible, it’s changed, it used to be so thrilling, but now no one dare says what will or won’t happen, everyone except the wireless.


Thursday 14th September 1939


Dear: Diary,


I woke this morning waiting for the worst. I didn’t care to get up, but, nevertheless I got up any way. My packed suitcase was on my desk with my gas-mask next to it. I washed, and then dried my sopping wet hair. I put on my newest dress, a deep silky, sapphire blue / emerald coloured dress; it ran all the way down to my knees, which were covered in blue tights the colour of Adonis blue butterflies , my favourite creature. It lives in quite, vast country sides as I was soon going to, very soon. My hair was tied in a ribbon of the same shade.

          My breakfast was scanty as we had used our supply of food from our ration book, eggs, bacon and beans , which were halved between me and Joe who is leaving this afternoon to become a privet , Privet Winters , he’d be called.

       Gas box around my neck, case in my hand and a placard tied to my wrist, I made my way out of the house with mother.

My placard was too tight round my wrist; I’d only written it yesterday, I’ll stick it on later:


Name: Charlotte Anne Winters

Age: 11

Date of Birth: 01.o8.1928

Address: 16 Harrington Way, Hanes, Bury, HS8 967

School: Oak farm primary















 At the station I met Mrs Evans, my class teacher by the train.

“Ahhh! Mrs Winters. My! You look lovely Charlie!” she said in the cheery voice that they (teachers) use these days. I don’t know why she said I looked pretty though, as I had a brown old mackintosh on. Then after a while I realised she said that to every girl and handsome for all the boys just to make them feel good. Who’d fall for that? Someone in my school probably …

         After standing between mum and Mrs Evans for what seemed to be years, the train arrived. By then I was clutching little Liz tightly, saying good bye to mum, the parents were ushered out by Mr Harrogate as the last of us boarded the train, for a very long journey. Lucy bagged us a compartment, it already had two occupiers but it had the biggest window on the train and it wasn’t packed to the brim.

           I sat down next to the window, Liz on my lap and Lucy beside me, Milly – Rose and Sarah next to her, opposite me was a girl about six and a boy ( her brother) about twelve.

“Hallo! Sorry about taking your compartment, but we had no choice! I’m Lucy. Lizzy, Charlie, Sarah and Milly –Rose” Lucy said pointing to each of us by our names.

“Jack and Margret Russell?” Lucy asked peering at their labels. They both nodded uneasily.

“Guess what?” Lucy asked rummaging in her case.

“Sweets!” she gasped grabbing a bunch from her case. She offered one to each of us but only Jack and Margret refused.

“Look, there not poison and I’m no German, I ‘m just a carefree, innocent…”

I sniggered.

“Since when have you been innocent? How about since you drew a moustache on Mr Harrogate’s picture last year or when you squirted Miss Andrews with the gardener’s hose …”


“… or when you let out that rat in the middle of French!” Sarah chimed in.



“I’m not an enemy though, I’m exactly the same as all of you” Lucy cried annoyed.

“Thanks” Jack interrupted by taking a sweet.

“Well done, Smiths five merits for making friends with others!” spoke Mr Harrogate popping his head in. After he went Margret sighed,

“You know, were not complete strangers, you don’t know much about us but we know lots about you …”

“Well, then what’s Harrogate’s nickname for say that lovely girl, what’s her name? Lucy!?” Lucy asked briskly.

“Smithy!” she replied, smugly.

“Were Uncle Toby’s nephew and niece” Jack explained but that made it ever more confusing to all of us except Lucy who stared at them, gobsmacked.

“Mr Harrogate’s! So that’s why he gave me five merits instead of the usual, usual as for people ill-fated as me!”  Lucy gasped.

“You’re officially the world’s unluckiest people!” Lucy laughed at there now stern faces.

“You look just as …”Lucy didn’t get to finish because of a sharp pinch from Sarah.

“Owww! Why did you do that for you, Owww!”Lucy demanded, while continuously being pinched by Sarah.

“MISS SMITH! WHY OFCOURSE ITS YOU! THE TRAINS ABOUT TO START AND YOU START SCREAMING! 50 POINTS OF DRAGONS!” roared Mrs Burns, who was ‘burning’ with fury as Lucy later said.

     “She was glad to take of points from Dragons just because shes the head of Wolves, she must just love talking about me to the wolves, remember what Petunia and Lavender said last year?” Lucy mumbled bitterly, as the train moved out of the station.

“Oh! She loves a little gossip, especially about you, no questions; she just despises you like I love pink!” Lucy imitated Petunia’s wispy sing-song voice.

        Unluckily, she forgot the whole scene of what happened, Petunia was seen stealing Lucy’s homework for Mrs Burns three days in a row, and Petunia had just wanted revenge for when Lucy put Daisy Harwood’s pet tarantula (Maisie) in Petunia’s book bag. After having a short detention and no points taken of Wolves that’s the reply Lucy got from Petunia. So, because of last year’s incidents we haven’t talked for nearly all the journey, at the stop before (Witsfield) Jack and Margret got off - without a word. Here I am now writing my diary in the half –light, but it’s a beautiful view from the window; I’ve decided that I like trains, the rattle and the rhythm of them. I’m pressing my forehead against the cold glass, and I trace a single raindrop with my finger as the unbelievable picture of the countryside rushes by, horses and cows gallop in the distance, hills are engulfed in snow white clouds and a formation of stunning swans fly high into the evening sunset. The exact contradiction of London.


Later that night


According to my watch, at exactly 9:35, we arrived at Devon.

One word. Sub-zero. I am not exaggerating; my watch shows the temperature as well; it was -3 degrees Celsius. Somehow, we were led to the village hall; there we all met a lady, a very peculiar lady she looked suspicious, I don’t know what for but she had a grim atmosphere about her, I whispered to Lucy, she said she couldn’t put it any better.

“I am Ms O’Heshten, you are to sleep here tonight, and the villagers will take you tomorrow morning, your supper, will be bread and cheese, please share as we may not have enough for extra” she spoke her voice sounding foreign.

“Are you Irish, Miss?” Sean O’ Finnigan, who’s Irish, asked.

“Yes” came a stern reply.

“Well, she don’t sound it, does she?” Sean whispered to Michael Hales.

“Weird” Lucy mumbled to Sean,

“I think shes foreign” Sean muttered

“Her accents too deep to be Irish”

      So for the rest of the night, Michael hales, Sean O’Finnigan,

Collin Parks, Lucy and I discussed Ms O’Heshten (and the villagers). Collin and I were the first of us to fall asleep, I bet Lucy stayed up and ate the rest of her chocolate biscuits.


Thursday 14th September 1939


Dear: Diary,


You know how I said Lucy will stay up well she went back to bed at 9:00, after breakfast and I found an empty biscuit packet in her bag.

    At 10:00 Sarah went to wake her up because the first of the villagers had started arriving. None of us are particularly ‘fat’ so we had to wait ages but people like Camilla Ross were long gone! Providentially, we weren’t the skinniest or shortest either so we were picked by this lady.

“Hello, your all together then?” she asked.

“Yes mam” we replied.

“Come on then”

We got ticked of the form by Miss Evans and of we went off with the little maid.
















As we had arrived ‘late’ Elsie took us up to a room with five beds and we instantly fell asleep. I hadn’t noticed a thing as it was so dark.  

          I awoke this morning at the sound of a cockerel; the sound hadn’t even shifted the others. I remembered where I was and why I was here, I groaned. A warm ray of sunlight hugged me tightly. As I opened the curtains, the room flooded with light.

       It was now I got to see the room properly. It was fairly large, about the size of our living room at home. Mine was the bed nearest the window; it had a cute little bedside table with a flowery patterned lamp, next to the, also wooden bed which had the same flowery design embroided on to the quilt and pillow case. There was a wooden wardrobe to be shared by each consecutive bed and a large shelf, for books, in line with the upper window pane. As I looked around the whole room, it had the same floral pattern on each bed, and the setting was exactly the same, only the walls and wardrobe s had no flowers but the walls were painted pale pink. The mistress had obviously wanted girls…

        After about 10 minutes when I had finished looking in everyone’s drawers and wardrobes, I found my case under my bed. I found the bathroom opposite our room so I washed and brushed myself clean. Ravenously, I gobbled up two packs of raisons and a chocolate bar, which mummy had secretly put in for the journey.

         By the time I finished, everyone was a wake, Liz started moaning and nobody could stop her.

       Elsie came up and cried “Oh! My! You sh’u’d be dow’stairs by now, didn’t ya hea’ the cockerel? Com’ on kiddie let’s get you changed” she said to Liz who was now thumping Lucy on the back. 

       “Don’t you like the room?” Sarah asked, trying hard to get Milly-Rose to speak. The thought of being the ‘step- sister’, the   odd- one out, she was appalled and stubbornly disagreed to talk to us. Well, I sort of agree, Lucy was a little harsh!

“Stop being a baby, even Liz is being calm now” Lucy snapped nodding her head at Liz who was now happily jumping on the spot!

      “I’m a big girl now!” she said grinning. Nobody had the heart to tell her that putting a jumper on didn’t make you a   ‘big girl’, more so if you’re only three…

        After we were all dressed and ready, Elsie came in and led us downstairs. I realised there were more floors than I thought as Elsie led us up yet more mountainous staircases, after we got up to the third floor Lizzy started moaning and didn’t stop till Elsie picked her up. I longed dearly to be Lizzy, who was now beaming from ear to ear!

   “In ‘ere” Elsie whispered. She straightened Liz’s pinafore and brushed her jumper, she carefully combed Milly-Rose’s hair with her long, raw fingers. Elsie smiled at us three oldest and motioned us to get prepared as she opened a grand door, her hands trembling …

      “The children” Elsie announced.

“Elizabeth” she murmured, Lizzy crept in and smiled shyly.

“Milly – Rose” Elsie spoke as Milly- Rose skipped in, taking in as much attention as possible,( to be the pet and get revenge on the rest of us) but her face turned blank as she stood next to Lizzy .I was dreading my turn.

“Sarah” Elsie gulped. Sarah, her head down, hating every moment walked in as slow as a snail. Tears stung my eyes. I didn’t want to be part of this posh family.

“Charlotte”. Lucy thumped my back encouragingly, I could tell she was longing to see these strangers. I hastily walk/ran to the line next to Sarah. I set eyes on the Smithsons for the first time.

       As Lucy’s name was called, I stared at the strangers who replied by staring back .Mrs Smithson ; a posh , skinny woman with a crooked nose , Henry ; a fat, spoilt , selfish , greedy, double chinned boy was sitting down next to his mother, looking very fat compared to her! Cook; a plump, jolly looking little old lady, in the corner and three other maids, like Elsie, stood grinning sheepishly in the corner.

    “My beloved husband, Henry Smithson the third, will not be present to this gathering of the persons who are to reside in this accommodation till further notice”Mrs Smithson spoke, slowly and highly. Lucy snorted. She blushed as everyone glared at her surprised.

“It seems your mother has not yet told you how to perform a thing called manners”Mrs Smithson now poshly ‘snorted’.

Lucy blushed a darker shade of crimson; even she dared not to speak back to this grand lady.

“Dis-gracefull”she gasped.

“Introduce your selves” she cried.

“Lucy, Lucy Smith” Lucy said bravely and in a slight tone of abhorrence, nobody was to mess with her.

“Charlotte Anne W-Smith” I said remembering the secret identities. The rest of our little family got reminded and played well to the group.

        After an hour my stomach started groaning and we were taken away for breakfast. My conversation with the maids was actually quite interesting:

“Hello, I’m Charlotte” I said.

“This is, Christine (Chrissie), I’m Evangeline, (Evie), and she’s Tina, (Tee)” replied Evie.

“I’m the only one aloud to speak as I have been properly educated from Smithy” Evie said, shooting a dark look at Mrs Smithson who was talking to fearful, petite Lizzy.

“We ‘ate ‘er, don’t we gals” Chrissie whispered her head close to mine.

 “Gosh, shes a nightmare!” Tee exclaimed, so loudly that Cook glanced in our direction! I heard a foreign accent in her voice, which Elsie explained after, was Polish. Tee was a lucky Polish girl that had escaped with her friend Ronnie, but the Nazis found Ronnie and killed her… Tee was still being looked for by the Nazi peoples, of course Mrs Smithson hadn’t known this, if she did; Tee would have to face her, never mind the Germans.

     The only people I loathed speaking to was Mrs Smithson and Henry. Mrs Smithson kept asking how ‘unlucky’ my family were and if we had a luxury Anderson shelter and if I was educated as much as her Henry, I lied to all the questions and acted as if I came from mightier power than her! Then she said,

“Your sister, Elizabeth said that you are close relatives to King Edward?”



“Of course, Uncle Edward! We haven’t been to Windsor for ages because of the war but he assured me that we’d get a noble family though not as rich and mighty as we are supposed to be treated” I lied, smugly to Smithy’s astounded face.

      After being taken back to our rooms I laughed at the lies we had told:



Lizzy: … we were foreign princesses taken here for secret



Lucy: …we had to swear to behave like normal children and try  

              To fit in with the poor!


Sarah: Oh no! I’ve forgotten my gloves to shake your hand Mrs   

           Smithson! I am forbidden to shake stranger hands in    

            Cause of sickness and unworthiness!


Milly – Rose: Mr Smithson, hmmmmm…..

                     Oh yes! I remember! He’s our butler! He looks just              

                     Like Henry! He lives in the garden; well this house

                    Is very much like our smallest garden shed!



On children’s hour we heard all about the allies and axis after Mary Plain (the lovely bear with a human friend – the Owl man, because of his enormous specs) here are the allies and axis:














Soviet Union                                                                                                                 

 United States

 British Empire
 New Zealand
 South Africa























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