The Evacuee

The following is a summary of the recollections of Douglas Wilde who came to Canada with his brother Peter, as wartime child evacuees. After making the Atlantic crossing as part of a convey, Douglas and Peter traveled to Morden, Manitoba to stay with the future Sutherland Forest Nursery Station Superintendent, Les Kerr and his wife, Blanche. the full account, a 53 page document is in the Friends of the Forestry Farm House Archives.

My family and I were living in Grantham, England. My parents had applied for my brother and I to go to stay as evacuees due to the dangers in London and surrounding areas. We arrived at our ultimate destination, Morden, a small town some hundred miles or so southwest of Winnipeg, that October 1940. We were to stay with Blanche and Les Kerr. Our guardian Les Kerr had a senior position at the Morden Experimental Station on a one square mile plot on the outskirts of the town. The work carried out there was on fruit trees and other horticultural products. There were also large horses similar to shires, I don't know the actual breed. We used to go to the station and help with the chores associated with the horses. We were allowed to drive the carts pulled by these huge animals, with supervision of course. The size of these can be seen on a photograph that I have with both my brother and I on the back of one called 'Major' he weighed in at 2,100 lbs., just over a Canadian ton! At the top end of the station there was a dugout used for irrigation purposes of the crops. After school and at weekends we went there to swim that is where I actually learned.

Each morning the ashes had to be removed from the stove. One winter morning it was my turn, I took the ashes, still hot from the night before from the stove taking them to the usual place behind the garage and dumped them in the snow. Apparently I put them too close to the garage which was made of wood and some time later it caught fire. Fortunately the car was not in as Les Kerr had gone to work in it. The Fire Brigade came and put out the fire. The windows had screens on them in the summer which were covered in muslin to prevent insects from coming in the house. Well, my brother and I were playing with matches, as boys do. We were in the bedroom near a window which was open. I put a match too close to the muslin and a great hole appeared! Inevitably punishment followed and that together with the garage incident led to my brother and I being split up. You can imagine the situation, a childless couple about 35 years old taking on two complete strangers from a different background one seven and one nine. I am led to believe we were not rude, but mischievous and quite a handful to say the least. During a visit of Blanche in 1986 she revealed she wanted to keep us both together, but Les was a very hard man and his will prevailed. My brother stayed with the Kerr's and I went to stay with the Reverend and Mrs. Henstock at the vicarage in the small town of Carman about 50 miles from Morden. In late January 1945, news came that I was to return back home to England. My brother arrived some 3 or 4 months later.

The families and the C.O.R.B. although kind, made no effort after my brother and I were separated to allow us to meet when, we were living quite close to each other. This did not take place even after my brother ran into a barbed wire fence and very badly cut his face, scars that he carries to this day. The only reason that I can think of is that, perhaps they thought that a meeting would be unsettling for us.

Excerpted from President's Message, Newsletter May 2004 - Bernie Cruikshank

Blanche and Les Kerr, with Douglas and Peter Wilde
Photo credit: Saskatoon Public Library, Local History Room [PH-95-158-1]