Second World War evacuee from Upper Basildon found living in Australia
A man has found a wartime evacuee who fled to West Berkshire.
And he has managed to locate a surviving evacuee – now living in Australia.
The documents list children who were evacuated to Upper Basildon to escape the Blitz in London, including German-Jewish refugees.
Speaking about his surprise finding, Mr Mitchell explained he was metal detecting on someone’s land when the owner shared the list with him, saying she had saved this from being discarded.
“She was more than happy for me to take and research them,” added Mr Mitchell.
“I found a living evacuee in Australia who had written about his time in Upper Basildon.”
Seven-year-old Richard Holdsworth fled Croydon for Upper Basildon with his family just before Hitler marched on Poland in September 1939, sparking the Second World War.
“My dad could see it coming and sent me, my older sister and mum off to the country,” said Mr Holdsworth.
“But I do have very fond memories of my time in Upper Basildon, especially of the headmaster Mr Nicholas at the village school and of the American men of the 101st Airborne Division billeted at Basildon Park.”
Mr Holdsworth, who lives in Melbourne, remembers seeing convoys of American troops attached to the legendary ‘Screaming Eagles’ passing on his journey to school.
He also recalls seeing aircraft towing gliders over Upper Basildon to liberate occupied Europe.
“The drone of the aircraft went on for hours. Dad said, ‘I almost feel sorry for the Germans’,” he added.
His father was falsely accused of being a Nazi spy.
But Mr Holdsworth and his mother also faced danger during a rare shopping trip to Reading.
They were knocked over by the blast which destroyed the People’s Pantry on Friar Street on February 10, 1943.
Mr Holdsworth stayed in Upper Basildon until he was 20. He then moved to Australia, where he became a cattle hand and later a writer.
He returned to the UK with his wife and published his reminiscences in a book titled Six Spoons of Sugar – in reference to the ration allocation during the war — while living near Reading.
While attending the 67th anniversary celebration of the 101st Division in Indianapolis, Mr Holdsworth was reunited with an important figure from his childhood.
He explains: “I took the microphone and told Harold [Heffner] to stand up and, with tears streaming down his face, and cheers from the throng, I said, ‘Harold, I apologise for taking 67 years to thank you for the chewing gum you gave us kids when you were in our country waiting to go off to war’.
“It brought the house down.”