Life as a wartime evacuee still had its dangers

Kathleen Borrett, wartime evacuee.
Kathleen Borrett, wartime evacuee.

Kathleen Borrett is not one for spending her summer holidays lying on a beach and doing nothing.

During her summer breaks in later life, she decided to pen her real-life memories of being a child in the war years.

Kathleen, centre, with her sisters Nora, 11, left, and Maureen, nine, right. The photograph was taken in Pilgrim Street just days before it was bombed.

Kathleen, centre, with her sisters Nora, 11, left, and Maureen, nine, right. The photograph was taken in Pilgrim Street just days before it was bombed.

The result was a dramatic tale of a Hartlepool evacuee growing up in rural Yorkshire.

In the final part of our series she tells of her close escape from the Nazis.

Life had its close shaves for Kathleen.

Most of the time, her evacuation to Broughton in North Yorkshire seemed idyllic for this girl from Pilgrim Street in Hartlepool.

I was one of the last evacuees to return home. I did not want to be at home where I had to share everything with my sisters.

Kathleen Borrett, wartime evacuee

But it didn’t always stay that way.

One day, while she dug up carrots from the garden of her hosts Arthur Seaberry Ford and his daughter Renee, a terrified Renee ordered Kathleen to “get down and lay flat.”

A noise like a firecracker rang out overhead and when Kathleen looked up, a German plane with black markings in the form of a cross was flying overhead.

On another occasion, an aeroplane crashed in a nearby field. She and the other children dashed over to play in the cockpit before a policeman ordered them to “get out and clear off” in case it exploded.

On summer nights, she and her pals would lay on their backs in the fields and watch the British bomber planes fly off for another night’s mission.

“They were laden with bombs,” said Kathleen.

And in another close-up experience of war, she would watch as “army trucks full of soldiers passed along the main road from Malton.”

“Very often there would be convoys and we would pass apples, pears and plums to the troops who were always very grateful.”

This town girl spent her time in the countryside learning how to identify different trees and wild flowers.

Kathleen added: “I can not remember how long I was with the Fords.

“I was one of the last evacuees to return home. I did not want to be at home where I had to share everything with my sisters.

“When I was at the Fords, I was spoiled rotten.”

After the war, Kathleen soon became the mother of the house when her mum Mary died aged 43. At just 15 years old, Kathleen had to look after five siblings and her dad Teddy.

Later, as she grew up, Kathleen became a counter assistant at Clennett’s shop in Sydenham Road and twice married. She had three children, three children and nine great grandchildren.

But she always remembered Broughton and the Ford family who made her so welcome.

In 1977, she went back but never got to meet the people who looked after her so well.

“I feel so helpless now, not being able to thank them properly for everything they gave me, everything they taught me and the love and protection they showed to me.”