IMAGINE having to leave your parents and friends aged just six years old to go and live with complete strangers.

This was the reality for Gwenda Brady, who was one of the thousands of children who were evacuated from Britain’s cities during the Second World War.

Gwenda, who is now in her early eighties and lives in Ponteland, was sent away with her brother, Doug, three years her senior, to avoid the bombing raids on Newcastle where their parents, Arthur and Gwen, lived throughout the war.

After an initial spell in nearby Morpeth, the couple with whom they were staying handed them back when Gwenda contracted chicken pox, and they were subsequently despatched to the tiny village of Bampton in Cumbria.

For three years, until July 1943, the brother and sister lived happily with the headmaster of the village school Dougie Thornton and his wife, Eveline, who they came to call aunty and uncle.

And whilst their street back home in High Heaton was bombed, the Brady children enjoyed a life of rural bliss.

Such was the impact of that time for Gwenda that she and her daughter, the writer Barbara Fox, have co-written a book about it called When the War is Over.

It provides a fascinating insight into the experiences of those who were separated from their loved ones.

In 1940, Gwenda and Doug were packed off with other pupils from Cragside School on a train from Newcastle Central Station before being picked up by a fleet of buses at Penrith which took them to a bare community hall.

Gwenda recalls: “I had been to an auction with dad at the cattle market and what happened next was similar to that, despite the good intentions of the lady in charge.

“The tall, strong-looking boys and girls were chosen first, just like the healthiest cattle were, but nobody seemed interested in Doug and me.

“Doug was a gangly boy, much taller than I was, but skinny, and that pale hair gave him a delicate look that belied the fact he was as healthy as the next lad. As for me, I was the smallest and youngest child there and not on anyone’s shopping list.”

The siblings were two of just four children left unclaimed when the kindly Mrs Thornton arrived late and agreed to take them on.

And although she had reservations about looking after a little girl, as she herself only had sons, Gwenda remembers how she became ‘the daughter she’d never had’.

There are lots of lovely reminiscences in this book, Gwenda’s befriending of the Thorntons’ hen which she named Judith, only to find her ending up on the dinner table one Sunday; her adventures on the Wright Bros bus which would transport them home for summer holidays over the nausea-inducing Hartside Pass and their adventures with another evacuee the couple cared for, John Stacey.

But there is sadness too. The Thorntons’ youngest son, also called John, died from rheumatic fever aged just 14 while the Bradys were with them.

One of the most heartwarming stories is that Doug Brady went on to win the commemorative award established in John’s name at Appleby Grammar School.

It’s heartwarming too that Gwenda kept in touch with her adopted aunty and uncle throughout their lives.

Bampton became her second home and when she met Alder Gofton, the man she would marry, in 1961, she took him to meet them.

“To my amusement – and Alder’s horror – uncle took him into his office to give him a grilling!

“I think he must have passed the test, despite not being a Methodist,” she laughs.

The couple, and their children, continued to visit them in Bampton until shortly before their deaths in the early 1970s.

l When the War is Over is published by Sphere at £7.99.