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Jewish Evacuees from Leeds in World War II Lincoln

Colin White shares his experiences of being a Leeds Jewish evacuee to Lincoln at the beginning of World War II. The experiences of Jewish evacuees to Lincoln have not been recorded before.

Lincoln Jewish Evacuees (Colin White)

I can offer you but the scantiest memories of my period at Lincoln but maybe the odd fragment will be of some help.

All Leeds schools were evacuated to Lincoln for the first three months of the war. We left on September 1st which, without looking it up, was possibly a Sunday. We must have assembled at school, in my own case, Roundhay School, one of the five Leeds Grammar schools. I vaguely remember having a gas mask in its cardboard box slung over my shoulder and was very likely carrying a small suitcase. I assume that my parents were advised on what was to be packed in it. We possibly travelled by hired bus rather than train but I have no memory of the journey. We must have been met in by Billeting Officers who, themselves, will have had a list of households willing to take in evacuees. We had tags round our necks and possibly these had mention of our religion because I do remember being one of the last to be accepted and I know of an acquaintance who with her equally Jewish friend from one of the Leeds girls' schools who was definitely a 'last' in acceptance, although neither she nor I were aware at the time of 'Jewishness' being a factor in all this. At the time the Jewish population of Lincoln was about nil but, equally so, when I was 'placed' together with a non-Jewish pupil, there was never any mention of Jewishness being a 'limiting' factor. Our foster parents could not have been kinder and at no time throughout the whole stay in Lincoln did I encounter any anti-Semitism.

My own billet was on Wragby Road - I seem to have a figure 176 in my mind but this is conjectural. Wragby Road had terraced houses down one side and waste land leading to the Prison on the other. My foster parents were a Mr and Mrs Lawson. They had one daughter, Rita, of approximately our own age(12). They took in two of us evacuees - a non-Jewish boy and myself. They were paid, I think, 5 or 6 shilling per week for our room and board. I vaguely remember my parents giving them a little extra. The Leeds schools were divided between the Lincoln schools - girls schools to Lincoln girls schools and boys to boys. In our own case Roundhay went to Lincoln Grammar School. Classrooms were made available in all sorts of rooms and corners and sports facilities were shared, but there was little or no contact between the two schools. At weekends we had to report at a meeting point to one of our schoolmasters in a sort of roll call to make sure that none of us were lost or had absconded.

My 'foster father' was a surveyor for the Corporation and his duty was to assess the window sizes of the various shops in order to determine how many sandbags might be needed. He had a car, unlike my parents, and we would often go with him on his rounds. He had a small allotment and, for the first time as a Jewish boy, I was involved in 'garden work'. One was aware of 'Jew's House' on Steep Hill and the legend of Hugh of Lincoln, but nothing was ever said in my presence about them or the fact that we Jewish kids were in any way different from anybody else.

I do not remember there being any Hebrew classes. I had been a Talmud Torah pupil in Leeds which had offered a high standard of Jewish education and I think I might have remembered any classes in Lincoln which might have contrasted with this, but I could be mistaken. Nor do I remember any synagogue services though, again, I might be mistaken. Our parents were allowed to visit us and did indeed come down every few weeks. I don't remember any provision for kosher food but, of course, one was brought up with the various do's and don'ts. I rather think that the strictly orthodox evacuated themselves as families, many to St Annes and, I believe to Ilkley. By December, though, because of the Phony War and the fact that so many kids were homesick, a decision was made to return the Leeds evacuees back home.

We kept in touch with the Lawsons for a time and they did, in fact, visit us once in Leeds but the relationship faded. They will most certainly no longer be alive. I do hope that this is some help with your researches.
Colin White

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