BOOK REVIEW IN ‘FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE’ DECEMBER 2014
Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the WW2 Home Front by Gillian Mawson
Social historian Gillian Mawson has spent several years recording the stories of former evacuees, firstly in her book Guernsey Evacuees: The ForgottenEvacuees of the Second World War and now here, with the personal accounts of 100 individuals who were evacuated during the early years of WW2 as part of OperationPied Piper, or who fled the Channel Islands or Europe as the Nazi war clouds gathered. The stories are divided into sections, from ‘Arrivals and Departures’ to ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ and the darker side of evacuation ‘homesickness and heartbreak’, ending with a tribute to the adults who took part in the evacuation andcare of millions of children.
Each story is diffused into a succinct account and is all the more potent for that – the stomach-churning farewells, the fear and excitement, the adventures, the kindness and the cruelty, ending with a brief synopsis of further memories or details of what happened to those involved. It’s packed with posters, documents and photographs, some from local groups and archives and others ‘rescued from old suitcases and attics’, along with useful websites and contacts for further research.
The breadth of experiences touched upon is extraordinary, along with what binds them: the evacuees’ incredible resilience and the willingness of folk from all walks of life to ‘do their bit’. Whether they lived in a ramshackle country cottage with three kids to a bed and no running water, or a stately home; if they were teachers accompanying pupils from the Channel Islands, only to be exiled from their own families for years; or volunteers for the WVS and Salvation Army, it all goes to show that evacuation was a remarkable feat of organisation, dedication and sacrifice.
Nowadays, the thought of sending your children off into the arms of strangers for months that turned into years is unimaginable. But for many it was a life-changing, even life-saving, experience. This book gives a unique insight into the evacuation experience from the mouths of those who lived through it, before they are lost to us forever.
Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the WW2 Home Front – by Gillian Mawson