Another Evacuee book? Yes, but with a difference!
“A Summer Interrupted – 1939” does not just dwell on the misery which many children (and their parents) underwent when they were suddenly bundled onto a train and sent off from the big cities to live with foster parents, many miles from home.
When Eileen Barnett and her twin brothers and sister were sent from London’s east End to the supposedly tranquil fields of rural Somerset, they did not end up in a farm labourer’s cottage. Instead they were transported by Rolls Royce to Hatch Court, a huge manor house, owned by the war-hero Brigadier Hamilton Gault and his wife, Dorothy, who were to look after them for the next six years.
Eileen, only 12 years old herself, was given the responsibility by her parents, of looking after Dennis, Charles and Marie and ensuring that the family were kept together. This she managed to do, even though she sometimes landed herself in hot water by her, perhaps too spirited, defence of her siblings.
During her stay at Hatch Court, Eileen was to meet major military leaders from all Great Britain’s Allies and even spoke to General Dwight Eisenhower.
Life was not all about meeting important people, however, and Hatch Beauchamp and its inhabitants did not escape unscathed. Many, including the Gaults, lost close friends and, indeed, some of the young officers who Eileen met at The Court, were killed overseas, and, worst of all, her own mother was killed.
But it was the arrival of the American soldiers in 1943 which had the biggest and most lasting influence on her life. Eileen met and fell in love with Sergeant Bob Burns and, after many trials and tribulations, finally became one of the 83,000 British War Brides who left for America in 1946.
Thus began a new phase of the life which was to be very different from her experiences in Hatch Beauchamp, which had begun with “A Summer Interrupted – 1939”.