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The Evacuee Teddy Bear


The Evacuee Teddy Bear


3.4 million children were evacuated in Britain during World War 2. It’s easy to imagine that all of them had a teddy bear in their luggage as a special possession. This one belonged to someone who lived in Ryde.



I was a young child, 8 to be precise. It was the year of 1939 as I headed through the harbour clinging onto my mother's arm. 

I was nervous as I knew that this could be the last time I saw my mother, and as I looked around I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a small teddy (that a child would have left behind in the stress). I never really thought about it, but it always stuck in my mind. As I neared closer to the ferry the horror set in, although I tried not to let it affect me. I stepped onto the ferry as it was time to set off. As I waved goodbye to my mum, a tear trickling down my face, looking into my mum’s deep brown eyes. 


As soon as I had lost sight of my mum I slumped back in my seat, with that picture of that teddy (sitting on the bench) stuck in the back of my mind. It was a short ferry trip to the Isle Of Wight but it definitely felt longer because of the amount of stress my eight-year old brain was trying to handle. As soon as I had arrived at the Isle Of Wight my legs began to shake, although I didn’t feel lonely because of the amount of people surrounding me in the same position that I was in. 


I stepped off the ferry trying to stop the nerves from getting to me. All of us had to stand in lines with our heads up as our foster parents prepared to pick one of us. I was handed over to an old couple who looked reasonably healthy and, later on, I found out they lived in Wootton. They were a kind couple and helped me with my stress as well as doing their best job to keep me happy. Although the Isle Of Wight was a nice place to stay, there were a lot of air raid sirens as you could hear them from as far away as Portsmouth.


Their house was decorated, although it didn’t have many activities to keep me entertained, so I spent most of my time in Wootton Wreck. There wasn’t a lot of time when I wasn’t at Wootton Wreck, but when it wasn’t it would have been me at my foster parents’ house shivering after hearing the alarming sound of air raid sirens. Moving on 6 years it was time to head back to the harbour. I was excited to finally head back home after a long time away from my parents, but still had a horrible feeling that they may not be alive.

Once again I stepped onto the boat, and the relief of not hearing air raid sirens every 5 minutes calmed my nerves. It was roughly a 30-minute boat ride back to Portsmouth, but it seemed much quicker as I was waiting to see my mum and dad’s smiling faces on the other side. I saw my mum standing on the other side of the harbour, with a tear trickling down her face like my tears 6 years ago. At first, I wanted to jump into her arms but she seemed quite upset. Instead, I walked slowly waving at her, trying to force a smile. I looked behind at the bench again, and saw the bear in the same place staring at me like in 1939.


Photograph: Portsmouth Harbour (1943) Imperial War Museum

My mum didn’t really talk much on the way back, but what I heard her mumble was ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘How do I tell him?’. I was confused but could make out that what she was trying to say was that my father had died. Moving on 40 years, I am much older and my mother has passed away (5 years ago), so I decided to visit the home of my foster parents. They were now living in Ryde so not far away. When I was walking through the harbour I could see the bench, now out of order, but still the teddy was there looking at me the same as 40 years ago. Still to this. day, the ‘Evacuation Teddy’ is there looking at you as you pass…’


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