Hampstead friends and fellow war evacuees are reunited 60 years after they last met

A former Hampstead woman has been reunited with a friend and fellow war evacuee more than 60 years after they last met.

Josie Stokes, 84, first met Mary Mann when she was nine years old while living in Kentish Town. Both their families moved to Hampstead during the Second World War.

Like nearly two million other children around the country, the two friends were evacuated to the country during the Blitz.

They stayed with a family in St Austell in Cornwall between 1942 and 1944 and on their return went to Princess Road Primary School in Primrose Hill before losing touch in the late 1940s.

Earlier this year Josie, who now lives in Sacramento in the USA, decided to get in touch with Mary.

She said: “When you get older you start thinking about things that happened a long time ago.”

She found her friend in March via a British website called www.findanoldfriend.co.uk, which used 192.com to find Mary’s address and telephone number.

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As Mary is hard of hearing, the pair exchanged letters and finally met in May.

Josie said of the reunion: “It seemed like another world. It was lovely. I recognised her right away. Her face has not changed.

“We had a lovely chat. Mary remembered so many things about my family. She remembered my mother had a secret language with animals!”

Josie recounted how being evacuated was like an adventure.

“We were friends so it was an adventure,” she said. “We did not realise how serious it was. We did not know Hitler had his eyes on invading Britain. To the parents it was traumatic, thinking that they may never see their children again.”

She also remembers how on one occasion the girls tried to walk back to London as they were homesick.

However, the adventure was short-lived. She said: “As soon as it got dark we turned back.”

Josie also had to leave her home in South Hill Park after a doodlebug flying bomb crashed several hundred yards away, close to one of the Hampstead Ponds, in 1944.

“The windows were shattered and my mother later found bacon she was cooking for breakfast on the street!” she said. “We had to leave after a few days.”

Josie visits London regularly.

“London is in my very soul,” she said. “Hampstead has not changed at all. It’s exactly the same.”