Sunderland Second World War evacuee makes sentimental return to boyhood escape 70 years on
A Sunderland grandad has made a sentimental return to the farm where he spent an idyllic year as a wartime evacuee.
Eighty-seven-year-old Jimmy Atkinson, from Bishopwearmouth, was taken back to Snape, the North Yorkshire village he last saw as a lad, by daughter and grandson Lynette and Graeme Blair.
Graeme, who arranged the trip to the farm in Bedale as a surprise, said his grandfather had been reminiscing about his time in the village for as long as he could remember: “He has spoken about his time on the farm all my life,” he said.
"From when I was a kid, I remember him talking about it, but we had never done anything about it until a few weeks ago.”
Graeme decided to take to the internet to see if he could find any trace of the farm and was amazed to discover that not only did it still exist, it was in the hands of the same family.
“I went on Google and there it was – D Trewhitt and Son, East End Farm, Snape,” he said.
“I called the number and explained who I was and said that my grandad had stayed there during the war and how he spoke very fondly of it.”
The D in D Trewhitt and Son turned out to be David, the son of the couple who owned the farm during the war – and he revealed Jimmy had made quite an impression, despite the large number of evacuees who had passed through the farm.
"He knew there had been a lot of kids who went there, but he said ‘What is your grandfather called?’ and as soon as I said it, he said ‘Jimmy Atkinson’,” said Graeme.
“He was only a baby when my grandad was evacuated there during the war but in later years, his parents spoke about the kids that went there and spoke especially fondly of my grandad.
"He was really enthusiastic and asked for more information. He spoke to some of the family members and is part of the local history group down there, so he had found some old records.”
Graeme arranged a visit and the family was welcomed by David and wife Gwen.
"It was a surprise – I didn’t tell my grandad, but on the way, he was guessing. He said ‘Are we going to Snape?’ but I just said I wouldn’t even know where it was,” said Graeme.
“Then as we came off the A1, he saw the signs for Bedale and he said ‘That’s where the farm was’.”
Jimmy was amazed to discover how much of the farm was just the way he remembered it, despite the passage of seven decades.
"There were some bits of the buildings that had changed but there was so much of the house and the farm that my Grandad recognised,” said Graeme.
"There was even some of the machinery that was still in the same place.
"It was a great day, thinking about everything that had happened in the last 70 years.”