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Evacuees' Lunch, 31 March 2004

When Maurice Ashley (1939–46) first told us of his wish to organise a lunch for "Taunton's boys who were evacuated to Bournemouth", we listened with a certain amount of scepticism. The evacuation years ended nearly sixty years ago, and there were already three dinners (Southampton, London and Bournemouth) which such people could attend.

The OTA provided help in the form of addresses and telephone numbers, but the vast bulk of this time-consuming search and enterprise was down to Maurice. He organised the venue, the menu, the letters, over 150 'phone calls to individuals and possibly the best media publicity for a function, such as this, that the Old Tauntonians have ever had. The result was an incredibly successful lunch-time gathering at The St Jacques Restaurant, Copythorne, attended by over 70 "evacuees". It was reported beforehand, during and afterwards by local radio, television (BBC and ITV) and the Southern Daily Echo.

As Maurice had promised, there was no formality. Throughout the whole lunchtime, the place was alive with laughter and conversation and much "Fancy seeing you" type greetings between OTs who, in some cases, had not seen friends since the return to Southampton in 1945 or just after.

Without Maurice Ashley's idea, without his initiative, his determination and his organisation, the Evacuees' Lunch would not have happened. All of us who were there were so very glad that it did.

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