The War Years

The period through and just after the Second World War was challenging for the DCAB. Evacuees from large cities began arriving in Devon, including in their midst a number of blind and visually-impaired people. Not only were there more people to serve, but petrol rationing meant that the home teachers were forced to use buses and trains to carry out their visits. They still managed to give lessons in Braille, but handicraft work suffered through lack of materials. Nonetheless, the charity was able to report that ‘in many districts the blind are knitting for the Red Cross or have adopted a ship or regiment’.

Evacuees, of course, included in their number people who needed the domiciliary assistance provided by DCAB. By 1943, 66 evacuees in the county were receiving this help and numbers continued to increase. In 1945, the assistance was increased to 27 shillings a week for single people and 44 shillings for a married couple. The DCAD dealt with 600 cases that year, paying out £35,000 15s 9d. As more evacuees arrived, fleeing the Flying Bomb attacks in London, the task of finding suitable accommodation fell to DCAB. ‘Many difficulties have inevitably arisen, but not effort has been spared to make these unfortunate people as happy as circumstances permit in their temporary homes’. As the war went on this work was to continue to prove far from easy, partly because of Devon’s attractions in general. In 1945, the charity reported that ‘considerable difficulty has been experienced in finding accommodation, especially in coastal districts, owing to the lifting of the Government ban [on travel outside of people’s immediate areas] and the consequent influx of holidaymakers’.

The war years were not characterised totally by difficulties and challenges, however. The year 1940 saw the first guide dog arrive in Devon, a black and white border collie who ‘is a great joy to his owner and has settled down very well in his new home’. The DCAB subsequently contributed to the upkeep of the dog, along with the Honiton Girl Guides’ Association.