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New book lifts lid on how sleepy Norfolk town became international safe haven during Second World War

PUBLISHED: 08:37 03 July 2019

Emily Green and her two children moved to Wymondham after their Norwich home was destroyed in the bitz. Photo: Submitted

Emily Green and her two children moved to Wymondham after their Norwich home was destroyed in the bitz. Photo: Submitted

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A couple from a Norfolk town have collated more than a decade of eye witness accounts to tell the story of how their home was changed beyond recognition by its new population during the second world war.

Ann and Adrian Hoare have released their ninth book, When War Came to Wymondham, about the town and its people in the Second World War. Photo: SubmittedAnn and Adrian Hoare have released their ninth book, When War Came to Wymondham, about the town and its people in the Second World War. Photo: Submitted

Ann and Adrian Hoare have lived in Wymondham since 1974 and have already written eight books about the town's history.

Their latest book is told through the eyes of ordinary people in Wymondham as their small, self contained community adjusted to a sudden influx of outsiders at the outbreak of war.

The authors, who met as history undergraduates at Hull University, said the Second World War was a significant time for both the town and its new arrivals, which included nearly 1,000 evacuees from Kent, Norwich and London.

In 1939 the town's population was only around 5,000, but Mrs Hoare said people embraced the challenge of finding space for those in need of shelter, stockpiling camp beds, mattresses and blankets for incoming children.

Servicemen at the USAAF Hospital in Wymondham. Photo: SubmittedServicemen at the USAAF Hospital in Wymondham. Photo: Submitted

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Alice Pike was nine when she and her eight siblings were sent from London to Wymondham.

In her account, featured in the book, she recalls her first impressions of the local children.

She said: "The local kids were a bit wary at first thinking all the London kids had fleas. But they soon came round when they discovered we did not.

"We thought they spoke a foreign language with their 'blast yor bores', 'little ol gal' and you'll get wrong'. But local people were nice and did not treat us as outsiders and often gave us produce from their gardens."

Eva Chapman and her husband George took in three evacuees over the six years and said the experience was life changing.

She said: "We still keep in touch with them and we've been to Gravesend and had holidays with them. They loved our son Philip and played with him like big sisters. They're part of the family now."

When War Came to Wymondham is available to buy at the Wymondham Heritage Museum, Ketts Books and the Wymondham Abbey gift shop.

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