'Dad walked determinedly down the path, joined by two neighbours with five children between them. As we reached the corner of Kent Avenue, I looked back for one last wave. But Mum had buried her head in her pinny and it was a year before I saw her again.'
In June 1940, 10-year-old Pam Hobbs and her sister Iris took the long journey from their council home in Leigh-on-Sea to faraway rural Derbyshire.
Living away from Mum and Dad for two long years, Pam was moved between four foster homes. In some she and Iris found a second family, with babies to look after, car rides and picnics, and even a pet pig. But other billets took a more sinister turn, as the adults found it easy to exploit the children in their care.
Returning to Essex, things would never be the same again, and the war was far from over. Making do with rations, dodging bombs and helping with the war effort, Pam and her family struggled to get by.
In Don't Forget to Write, with warmth and vivid detail, Pam describes a time that was full of overwhelming hardship and devastation; yet also of kindness and humour, resilience and courage.
War is impossible to understand for most adults, let alone a 10-year-old child, as Hobbs demonstrates in this warmhearted memoir. In June 1940, when Hobbs and her 11-year-old sister, each carrying a gas mask and clothes bag and wearing a name tag, were evacuated from their home in Essex, England, she knew war had taken over her life. To prepare for a potential invasion by Germany, the British government had organized several evacuations of children during WWII to safer locations outside of metropolitan areas. Hobbs, along with 20,000 other children, pregnant women and mothers with preschoolers, were sent to live with families in Central England. Ultimately, Hobbs lived in four households over a two-year period, but the effects of the evacuation lasted much longer. One stay was particularly troublesome: "For me, the really sad aspect of this billet was that for the first time in my life I knew what it was like to be unwanted. It founded fears of being unloved and created a lack of self-confidence that stayed with me for years." Hobbs vividly describes the rigors of a child's life during the war and the grim years following victory, including hunger, shortage of daily items including pots and pans, and making mascara from chimney soot. But she also discovered the delights of the English countryside and two loving caretakers. Hobbs's story is both enlightening and endearing.