From 1982-83, Living Archive carried out interviews with residents about life between the wars and the onset of World War 2. They inspired the evocative scenes and songs of the musical documentary drama, Sheltered Lives. This song, Letters Home, came directly from those written by Derek Lambert who was evacuated with his brother from London to the home of Mr and Mrs Lovell in Wolverton. Paul Clark said he structured it ‘to mimic a rambling child’s letter, so there were long lines with ideas jumbled up, as you might find in such writing.’
The music needed to be simple in style like Derek’s letters to his parents, but also express the newness of experiences in the community that he and his brother had been grafted onto: ‘I wrote it with a big, long line and with very few rhymes. There are only three rhymes in each verse, because I was gathering together a lot of material from Derek’s letters. These wandering lines were the verse, and the chorus was very simple so that children could learn it.’
Other evacuee memories in LAMK’s archive abound, among them this one, from a visitor to Milton Keynes many years later:
We got off the train, were herded into groups and led down a road. As each door was answered the occupants chose one or two and the party dwindled until only two of us were left. We were accepted by Mr and Mrs Field of 5 Church Street. My companion - who I remember only as Charlie - and I were shown a bedroom which we shared. I remember looking out of the upstairs window at a row of small shops… At the school which we lads from London attended, we mixed with a crowd of strangers who did not like us very much. We were rotten stuck-up Londoners and they were yokels. I wouldn’t say any of us enjoyed living in Wolverton. It was the first time that most of us Cockney kids, as we then were, had been separated from our parents.
(Cllr Don Seale of Oxford, resident of Wolverton 1940, in a letter to LAMK after a visit to Wolverton in 2008)
Images and primary source material from LAMK archive
The song is featured on the Living Archive Band’s album All That’s Changed Vol 1 (LAMK)