(UPDATED 9 November 2016)
In May 1945, countless evacuees prepared to return to their own families. Yet many children had come to truly love their wartime ‘foster families’ and did not want to leave. Having had little contact with their own parents during the war, they now viewed them as ‘strangers.’ Others had become accustomed to the new environment with many urban children living in the country.A study of newspaper reports from 1945 reveals countless scenes at railway stations where child evacuees clung to their foster parents, clearly unwilling to leave them to return to parents they had not seen for over 5 years. Many had also come accustomed to their new environment and made firm friends during the war.
Rita Roberts told me, “As an evacuee living in the country, I did not want to go back home to the town life.”
One Cheshire man told me, ‘Our neighbours had cared for a little girl from Guernsey during the war. After five years, the day came for her to return home, but she had completely forgotten what her parents looked like and really loved her wartime parents, brothers and sisters. On the day she had to go home, she was actually dragged out of their house, kicking and screaming. It was very distressing for everyone concerned.”
LILY DWYER told me:
“Memories of my home and family faded, then one day, my wartime foster mother, Mrs Bee, came to me and said, ‘Your Mummy is coming to collect you.’ Mrs Bee had just bought me a bicycle and I went into the garden, got on the bike and rode round and round, I wanted to scream because I was leaving Mrs Bee and going back home.
Mum collected me and I wanted to scream as it happened. Mum was expecting her fifth child and I think she needed me to help with the younger children. I hated leaving Mr and Mrs Bee and their daughter, Mary. Mum took a large suitcase away with us so I assume that the lovely clothes that Mrs Bee had made for me were in there. I never saw those clothes again, perhaps Mum had to sell them because she was so hard up?
I was back to poverty and the house I had left in 1939 had been bombed out so we had moved into a place over a fish shop. I didn’t remember my sisters either. The first night I got home I had to get into bed with two sisters in ONE bed who I didn’t know at all. One of them was crying, saying ‘This girl is kicking me!’ – as she didn’t know me either. I became a sort of housekeeper for Mum.
RICHARD SINGLETON was evacuated from Liverpool to Wales where he truly grew to love Mrs Liz Morgan and Mr Moses Morgan who cared for him in a very loving way. Richard did not want to leave his new ‘auntie and uncle’ when the war ended. He was very emotional when he told me his wartime story three years ago:
The photograph below shows Auntie Liz (on the right), with Richard standing at the front of the photograph – together with two members of his own family during a rare wartime visit.
“I will never forget the day my mother suddenly arrived at my Welsh billet. She had come to take me and my brother, Ron, home to Liverpool but we had been happily living with Aunty Liz for 4 years by this time.
I told her I didn’t want to go home. Ron, Aunty Liz and I were crying, so in the end Mum just took Ron and said she would be back for me. I was still crying when Ron left, and I really missed him.
When Mam came to visit again it was just like the last for me, crying and not wanting to go. Aunty gave me a pen and pencil set, plus the New Testament that she had given me when we first arrived. Mam wanted me home because I was coming to the age of leaving school, fourteen, so I could go out to work and earn money.
I cannot remember leaving Auntie Liz – I was too upset to think of leaving Tancwarel and never seeing Aunty Liz and Uncle Moses and everything that I loved on the farm. I was being taken somewhere that I never wanted to go!”