Steam locomotive helps youngsters gain an insight into becoming an evacuee

Name labels, suitcases and gas masks as junior actors waited for a train ride to new homes away from the risk of wartime air raids

FURNESS youngsters preparing for a stage show were given a taste of life as wartime evacuees when a steam locomotive arrived to take them to new families well away from the risk of air raids.

The Mail, on Monday, January 13 in 2003, noted: "Stage-struck youngsters from Barrow took a step back in time dressed up as wartime evacuees for a new version of the Lionel Bart musical Blitz.

"The West End show, which tells the story of children evacuated from London, is being staged by the Abbey Musical Society at Forum 28, Barrow, in March.

"Society chairman Bill Steele said between 50 and 60 children turned up at Greengate Junior School, Barrow, for auditions and 21 boys and girls were chosen.

"The lucky youngsters donned wartime clothing and they were taken to the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway to recreate the nostalgic scenes of wartime children evacuated to the country.

"Mr Steele said the children will be playing an important role in the show which was last staged by the society 11 years ago."

He said: "We needed children of different sizes and ages to play evacuees.

"They are on stage quite a lot and are very involved."

The show's producer was Colin Smith, with Noreen Steele was director of music.

Blitz was written by Lionel Bart and is set in the East End of London during the aerial bombing of the Second World War.

It draws on his childhood memories of market stalls in Petticoat Lane and the mass evacuation of children to safer areas of the country.

The show opened at the Adelphi Theatre, London, in May 1962.

This year's show by Abbey Musical Society could hardly be more different.

Shrek The Musical can be seen at the Forum from Monday to Saturday, March 16 to 21.

The fun show is based on the book and lyrics of David Lindsay-Abaire, with music from Jeanine Tesori.

The first air raid in what later became known as the Barrow Blitz came in September 1940 when 300 incendiaries were dropped on Salthouse and a five-year old child became the first victim.

At least 90 Barrow deaths can be directly attributed to the raids and up to 500 injuries.

About a quarter of the town’s housing stock was damaged, plus hotels, churches and the town's railway station.

The main period of raids was in April and May 1941 but the last bombs did not fall until January 1942 and the last air raid siren was sounded on March 25 in 1942.