On May 27th, 1940, the evacuation of Dunkirk started. What would be next? Hitler was making ready to invade England, perhaps over the shallow beaches of Romney Marsh. In the summer and autumn the brave young pilots fought the Germans in the skies above Hythe and East Kent.
Otway and Margaret discussed their dilemma: they had enormous financial problems and their family was in danger. Otway declared himself a war bankrupt and they decided to evacuate as well. In May 1940, they set off for Perranporth in Cornwall, where Otway had obtained a job as a coastguard. To the young family there was an addition, newly born John.
They parked the caravan at Gears Sands, just above the closed golf course. Otway had a couple of golf clubs and a few balls. The wheels of the car were removed and it was put up on blocks for the duration of the war. He erected a chicken hut in which he spent many nights, as he had to leave at odd hours to go on his ancient BSA motorbike and sidecar to the coastguard station.
If life appeared carefree for the children, their parents faced problems. The £3 a week Otway earned as a coastguard could have easily paid the house expenses, but it wouldn’t also pay for the bottles of whiskey he had grown used to in his life in Ireland. One day at work, perched high above the sea, he noticed a barrel being driven through the surf. He jumped on his motorbike and rushed down to the beach. He pulled it ashore and unplugged the bung. It was truly treasure, neat industrial alcohol. As a chemist and with his knowledge of poteen he knew the liquid could be dangerous. He offered the first drink to a soldier, who didn’t fall over, so he strapped the barrel onto the motorbike and delivered it to his chicken hut.
Both Otway and Margaret were fiery characters and the fights in the caravan were traumatic, particularly for Jimmy. Saucepans would be thrown and then Otway was sent off to the chicken hut.