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The perilous pig which did Hitler's work

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Tom Boden's 10 months as a city boy in rural Shropshire were to provide him with a host of stories to tell.

The Boden family evacuees: Tom Boden, top left, then clockwise John, Chrissy and Mary surrounding their mother Suranne Boden, who stayed in Liverpool.

He and his brother and two sisters came to the county from Liverpool in September 1939.

The farm at High Hatton, near Hodnet, was meant to be a safe haven, but had its own dangers – a pig savaged the leg of his older brother John.

And sister Chrissy hated it so much and was so homesick that she refused to drink the tonic she was supposed to take for throat problems, deliberately became ill, and got her wish to return to Liverpool.

Tom’s wartime experiences provided the inspiration for a series of children’s books written by his grandson, Michael Thame.

“He did not so much enjoy it, as experience it,” said Michael, from Didsbury in Manchester.

“Some things he liked, but ultimately he was homesick. He was staying on a farm, where there were pigs, and a boar savaged John’s leg, and there were geese and ducks in the farmyard which Tom fed.

“I believe the couple they were staying with were called Alf and Mae Higgins. I think when Tom was in the navy that he went back once, to see how Alf and Mae were getting on. I don’t know if Mary, the youngest did, but he specifically said that he doubted John ever went back.”

Tom was born in 1930 into a growing, and ultimately large, Catholic family who lived in the poor Scotland Road area of inner-city Liverpool and when war came in 1939 Tom, along with older brother John and younger sisters Chrissy and Mary, were packed off to Shropshire. Their parents stayed behind.

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Chrissy’s rapid return left just John, Tom, and Mary in Shropshire, where they stayed for about 10 months.

“Three of them stayed there for a year during the Phoney War before they returned to Liverpool just in time for that city to experience a huge amount of German bombing,” said Michael.

Their dad worked on Liverpool docks and would cycle down to Shropshire to see them on the Saturday, and then back the following day.

Tom eventually settled in Kent.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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