AT THE beginning of the war, it was decided to move children away from cities that were likely to be heavily bombed by enemy action. Thus children from Portsmouth were evacuated to Romsey, and the town council and Romsey Extra Parish were each expected to take some evacuees. Each council had to appoint visitors who made house-to-house surveys of who had room to accommodate them.

Romsey Extra was told that they would receive 393 evacuees, 153 unaccompanied children, 15 teachers and helpers and 225 others. The Council had to appoint a Billeting Officer who would oversee the arrangements and pay the maintenance allowances which were funded by the Government. Mr Beazley of Beatrice, Rownhams Lane (then in Romsey Extra) took the post but resigned after three months.

Despite pressure from the Rural District Council, the parish remained without a Billeting Officer, let alone assistants until April 1940, Mrs Anderson and Mrs Norris of Woodley House agreed to act. By then, the phoney war was nearly over, and many of the evacuees had gone home.

Amongst others, three brothers from a modest Portsmouth family came to Romsey and ended up in the home of Mr Robert Chambers, the managing director of Strong’s Brewery, where they were looked after by the butler and a maid.

One local lad, John Hibberd, ended up living in North Baddesley manor house with his parents, having been bombed out of their home in Southampton. His father was accountant to the coal merchants J.W. Wood & Co. who moved their offices to the ballroom in the manor house. When not at school, Taunton’s, which was evacuated to Bournemouth, Johne slept in a room over the archway that led to stables. This room also served as the arsenal for the local home guard and contained grenades, sten guns, and rifles in addition to boxes of ammunition, some of which was kept under his bed.

The late Aldyth Wellington tells the story that on some occasion she was answering the telephone calls during a home guard exercise, when an urgent call came in from Mrs Lalonde, the doctor’s wife, who needed her husband to come home immediately. Aldyth explained that he could not be called away during the exercise, and got the frosty reply ‘Aldyth, don’t be silly, the bees have swarmed and I need him to deal with them’.

Lord Palmerston’s statue was taken down and stored in the South Garth of Romsey Abbey throughout the war.