Derek Trayler, evacuated by sea to Norfolk, England, said, 'After walking five miles, we reached Dagenham Docks where there were three paddle steamers . . . they took us all the way down the Thames and up the East Coast'.
Sadly, not all the evacuees had happy experiences. Jean Bell recalls, ‘My sister and I lived with a lady in Wales who was cruel to us, and her daughter stamped on my sister’s fingers'.
Lourdes Galliano was evacuated from the island of Gibraltar into the heart of the London Blitz. ‘We were taken to a skating rink that had been converted into an evacuee centre. The rows of tiered seats had been closed and folding camp beds had been jammed into the gaps. The ceiling was made of glass. One night we heard the air raid warning and were sent to a shelter outside. When we returned, our beds were covered in glass from the ceiling that had fallen in during the bombing'.
Some evacuated schools remained together during the war and teachers became their pupils’ wartime guardians. Miss Grace Fry described arriving in Weymouth with her pupils. ‘An air raid began and the children and I were pushed onto a bus. Then the driver locked the door and disappeared'.
There are strong links with the USA too. Paulette Le Mescam was evacuated with her school from Guernsey to Cheshire. ‘Every child in my school was sponsored by a kind American – and my sponsor was Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt'. In Lancashire, England, Mr John Fletcher raised funds from friends in America so that 300 Channel Island evacuees could receive a Christmas gift. His grandson recalls, ‘Every year my Grandfather arranged a Christmas party. Dressed as Father Christmas, he presented over 200 children with gifts'.
The people of Vancouver also raised thousands of dollars for British evacuees. The photo below shows John Fletcher in Guernsey, after the war, with some of the children he had given Christmas gifts to.
A stark memento. . . .
Visit Gillian Mawson's WW2 Evacuation blog here:
UK customers may buy Evacuees: Children's Lives on the World War 2 Home Front here:
US customers may pre-order the book here: