It’s hard to imagine what life must have felt like for the thousands of children who were evacuated to the countryside during World War Two.
In September 1939, the Mid Sussex Times reported a massive influx of youngsters and their teachers from London and followed their progress as they settled in.
It must have felt like stepping into a different world for some of the children who had never before left the city.
One little girl, Mary Morris of Lewisham, said: “I like Burgess Hill because of the fields. We haven’t any fields at home and no blackberry bushes.”
Boys from the Henry Fawcett School, next to the Kensington Oval, were sent to Lindfield, where they demonstrated their cricketing skills to the local lads.
The sound of ball on willow was to become a familiar one at Lindfield Common!
One of the London boys told the Times: “It is lovely down here, and much better and safer than London.”
Minor issues were reported in Burgess Hill but no more than could be expected when so many people were thrown in together.
Miss Watts, headmistress of the Lewisham Bridge Infants’ School said there had been one or two complaints about the local children being too rough with the little ones but, other than that they had been treated excellently.
The report added: “St John’s Park has been looking more like Hampstead Heath on a Bank Holiday than the beautiful recreation ground which is Burgess Hill’s chief pride. And the litter! Well, perhaps we had better not say any more about that!”
Given their love of the countryside, it would be interesting to know how many of the children either stayed in or returned to Mid Sussex once the war was over.
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