Evacuee’s family ties continue on return to Exmouth
PUBLISHED: 12:30 25 June 2016
A man evacuated to Exmouth during World War Two has returned to the town - and has struck up a friendship with another generation of the family which looked after him.
Percy Cook, now 85 years old, first arrived in Exmouth as a nine-year-old boy in 1940, as one of a group of evacuees from London.
As one of only three youngsters who were not initially claimed by a local family, Percy was taken to the home of Catherine Green, whose first response to the person at the door was ‘I told you I didn’t want any evacuees’.
As a compromise, it was agreed Percy would stay for one night – but he ended up staying for five years, until the war ended.
During that time, he was helped by Doris Gliddon, Catherine’s niece and employee, and they stayed in touch after the war, with Percy making regular return visits throughout his life until the death of his wife, after which he did not have the confidence to travel alone.
Having finally found the courage to return to Exmouth last year, he was informed before setting off that Doris, who later went by the married name Curryer, had died aged 96 – however, he was able to change his travel arrangements to attend the funeral. This also allowed him to get to know Doris’s children, and so this year Percy, who now lives in Cambridge, decided to return, accompanied by his sister, Daisy Vickers, this time spending time with Doris’s son, Brian Curryer, and his wife, Anne.
Brian, who lives in Farringdon, said: “He’d always been mentioned by my mother, but we’d never met him.
“Once we started hearing some of the stories about his time here, it was so interesting. It fascinated me that he was an evacuee and we were getting stories from him that were so close to our family.”
Percy’s memories of his stay in Exmouth include having to dive into a gutter to escape gunfire from a passing aircraft, seeing a plane shot down near Littleham, and being ‘taught’ to ride a bike by being pushed down Albion Hill.
He said: “I was always welcome wherever I went.
“Brian’s mother did a lot to look after me and we were friends ever since.
“Exmouth’s changed immensely since then – in some places, it’s unrecognisable.”