“We had evacuees sent to Allonby from the North-East. They had to be met at Bulgill station, the nearest railway stop. One day, this big load of mothers and babies came from the Newcastle area. The poor things had been on the train since seven or eight o’clock in the morning. It had been a twelve hour trip for them with the young babies and just what they could carry with them. Some of them had been bombed out. They came to Allonby and I was the WVS Reception Officer for them. I had to welcome them in and see they got to the right place at the right time. When they arrived, there were some nursing mothers who hadn’t had anything to drink and they wanted water badly. So I had to ask someone from a nearby farm if we could have one of their milk churns and fill it with water for these poor mothers to have a drink.
We had quite a number of evacuees in Allonby but they didn’t stay long. They had left when things over there were really bad and then they returned. We had a mother and four children at the vicarage. We had an attic with back stairs up to it and they had that like a flat of their own. They had to use our kitchen but they came down the back stairs when they wanted it. They had a sitting room and two bedrooms up in the attic so they were quite comfortable there.
After a while, when things had settled down a bit, they started to have bus trips for relatives who wanted to come and see their loved ones. They used to descend on Allonby from the North-East on a Sunday which was rather a busy day for a vicar’s household to welcome these people in. Anyhow they came and made themselves comfortable with us for the day but they were fairly choosey about what they wanted to eat.
The children went to the village school. It was a difficult time; we used the church hall to get things sorted out. There was no military presence in Allonby but the Silloth boys used to come on their bicycles to the little dances in the village hall and livened-up the village.”
The photos and words below are curtesy of Tim Barker, son of Patrick and Doris Barker. After his own adventures, Tim has returned to his hometown of Silloth, where he set up the Soldiers in Silloth Museum at 1 Marine Terrace, Criffell St, Silloth, Cumbria. CA7 4BZ.
My father George East was posted to Silloth very early in the war. He said that one of his duties was to move round dummy aircraft in order to fool any enemy recce flights. My mother and I were living in a converted railway carriage at Allonby over the road from the beach. One morning when we were walking along the beach we were buzzed by very small sea plane flying so low that father had to throw us to the ground. I was only three years old but I can still remember it. He didn’t recognize the type and supposed it was an enemy. Father died in 1991, aged 80. He finished his service at Waddington with the rank of sergeant.
William Norman Helsby was an Aircraft Fitter posted to Silloth about 1941 after being evacuated from France from St Nazaire and witnessing the sinking of the “Lancastria”. Doris Binks was also in Silloth with the WRAF, working as a parachute packer. She was billeted in a Hotel near the seafront. William and Doris met, while both were based in Silloth and visited each other in a local Café known as Mrs Murray’s.
Source: “My memories of Silloth were of the airfield being constructed in 1938. The bus service from Wigton passed the airfield. Later when it opened we could see the spitfires and hurricanes tucked away in small dispersal fields or stored in the corrugated mini hangers which were disguised as farm building often painted with windows. From time to time the traffic would be held up whilst a fighter was manhandled down the main road out of one of the fields.
Born in 1940 and now aged 73, Barry Hope is a very well known and popular man, who has lived in Silloth since 1973. When still a youngster, Barry and his family came every year to Silloth for their annual holiday. He can vaguely remember the air raid shelters on the Green and he remembers that during the war years, the family bungalow in Skinburness was let out as a billet to RAF personnel. As the family always came for the full month of August, they stayed in a caravan at Moordale, and Barry has many happy memories of their time there going fishing with set lines on the West Beech and selling the flat fish they caught to other holidaymakers.