Seventy five years ago, on 2nd June 1940, hundreds of children were evacuated from Lowestoft to towns and villages in Derbyshire.

Vi on left Mary Draper on right

Vi Draper (left) and her sister Mary (right) found a new family when they were evacuated to Derbyshire. (Courtesy of Mary Draper)

Mary Draper, then aged five, and her sister Vi, then aged three, were evacuated from Lowestoft to Chesterfield, ‘Vi and I were evacuated with our school and were taken to Barlborough, near Chesterfield. We had no Mum, and our Dad was in the Home Guard. A lovely couple took us into their home. Mr and Mrs Bacon had no children of their own, and they practically became our Mum and Dad until the day they died.

The war really did us a favour because they were marvellous to us, treating us like little princesses. We called them Auntie Bee and Uncle Bob. They had a lovely home and we lived with them until the end of the war. When we had to leave them to return to Lowestoft, it broke our hearts as well as theirs. Our real Dad passed away when we were in our teens. I was with my fiancé by then, so my sister moved back to live with Mr and Mrs Bacon.’

When Mary got married, her children looked upon Mr and Mrs Bacon as their grandparents. Vi still lives in Chesterfield, as does Mary’s son Michael – and Mary’s family visit regularly.

Discover 100 Second World War Evacuation Stories, collected from all over Britain, in my latest book

Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the World War Two Home Front (Pen and Sword Books) http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1783831537?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creativeASIN=1783831537&linkCode=xm2&tag=guerevacoralh-21 … … … … …




Since 2008 I have interviewed around 300 Guernsey evacuees about their wartime experiences and many confirmed that regular church worship sustained them through the dark days of the war.

In June 1940, over 17,000 people fled Guernsey to England, just days before Germany occupied the Channel Islands. Whole Guernsey schools were evacuated with teachers and mothers who acted as helpers and most of the evacuees were sent to northern England. My interviews with hundreds of evacuees show that their faith provided great comfort during the war.

Mr Reta Batiste wrote: “It was not long before we found a place where we were not ‘strangers in a strange land’ – the local Methodist church.” The Reverend George Whiteley had been Superintendent of the Guernsey Methodist Circuit, and in England he was appointed to assist the evacuees from a church office in Westminster. In one month he visited evacuees in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Oldham and Croydon. In Derbyshire, he advised the boys of Guernsey’s Elizabeth College, “Remember that the Channel Islanders will be judged in this country by their behaviour. You must not let the islands down.” At Tiviot Dale Church in Stockport, the Revd Mark Lund became the evacuees’ chaplain for the whole war. So close was their relationship, that when many of the evacuees returned to Guernsey in 1945, he decided to go with them.

Tiviot Dale Church
Tiviot Dale Church

Special church services were arranged for the evacuees and in one month alone, services were held in Horsforth, St Helens, Stockport, Barnsley and Halifax. In January 1943 hundreds flocked to a service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, which was led by the Archbishop of York. The hymns were particularly relevant to the plight of the evacuees’ families in occupied Guernsey. One stated ‘Keep our loved ones, now far distant, Neath thy care.” Thousands attended a service at Westminster Abbey in April 1944. The Dean of Westminster told the crowd “It was a day of tragedy indeed, not only for you, but also for England when the Germans landed and took possession of your towns and villages. Your islands are the oldest possession of the British Crown. By your spirit of indomitable hope, you have made a real contribution to our national morale. May God hasten the day when you shall return to your homes.”

Westminster Abbey entry ticket
Westminster Abbey entry ticket

Evacuated Catholic schools organised their own private services. Paulette Le Mescam was evacuated with her school to Moseley Hall, Knutsford where each pupil was financially supported by an American through the Foster Parent Plan for War Children. Paulette was supported by the wife of the American President, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt and they exchanged letters. Paulette told Mrs Roosevelt, “Here we have Mass every morning, and Holy Communion whenever we want it.”

When the boys of Guernsey’s Elizabeth College moved into Whitehall, near Buxton, they discovered a neglected chapel, which they quickly renovated. The college principal wrote, ‘This chapel has become a vital centre for the whole communal life. One of the boys made a simple wooden cross for the altar. Each day until the end of the war we had prayers, and a service each Sunday.”

The chapel built by the evacuee boys of Elizabeth College
The chapel built by the evacuee boys of Elizabeth College

To this day, the college proudly displays the wooden cross in the entrance hall in Guernsey.

The Parish Church in Disley still flies the Guernsey flag around 9 May each year (Liberation Day in Guernsey) to pay tribute to the Guernsey children the village cared for during the war.


Find out more about the Guernsey evacuation and my British evacuation books by clicking the following link:


Lovely review of my book by Family Tree Magazine


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


book cover i can use for twitter fb etc


Below are the memories of Birmingham evacuee, John Hawkins, who was evacuated from Birmingham with his sister Rose, on 1 September 1939. He recalls the scene at his school when he said goodbye to his Mother.

in this pre war photograph, John is pictured front right, with his sister Rose as a baby. His brother Bill and sister Mabel are also in the photograph.
in this pre war photograph, John is pictured front right, with his sister Rose as a baby. His brother Bill and sister Mabel are also in the photograph.

A teacher, marking names off a clip-board, was busily checking all the children as they arrived at the school gate, and I scampered over to join my Mother and Rosie as frantically, she beckoned me to her side. With a gentle smile, a nearby teacher touched Mom’s arm, and said softly to her ‘You can leave them now, Mother, they’ll be alright me with me’.

Almost instinctively, I gazed quickly into Mom’s face, and I saw her lips begin to slightly tremble with emotion, and a huge lump immediately rose in my throat as she suddenly crouched down, and hugging us both closely to her, kissed us tenderly on the cheek. With her head inclined, so that we couldn’t clearly see her face, she murmured to me in a faltering voice, ‘You see you take good care of her now, I will …’ and turning abruptly away, her sentence unfinished, she shambled quickly off, apparently to join the crowd of watching parents, as her voice trailed away to a choking whisper.

The teacher shepherded us both into the waiting lines and handed us both our labels. Dutifully I slipped the bootlace over Rosie’s head, and then my own, before craning my neck above the mass of children, to try to catch a last comforting glimpse of Mom amongst the crowd who now shouted, smiled and waved encouragingly at us all through the railings, but I couldn’t see her anywhere.

Quite suddenly, screeching noisily, the heavy steel railing gates were swung back and the nearest line of children obediently picked up their cases, shouldered their haversacks and gas masks, and led by their considerable escort of teachers, began to file through them in a long double column. Some parents now ran frantically alongside the long trudging procession, anxiously searching for their own children.”

 My new book, published December 2016, contains interviews with over 500 evacuees from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Gibraltar and the Channel Islands




Many of the evacuees that I have interviewed since 2008 have told me about the

air raids that they endured on the British mainland.

Today’s post marks the anniversary of the horrific Coventry Blitz which took place

on 14 and 15 November 1940

The Alexandre family had been evacuated from Guernsey to England in June 1940

just days before German forces occupied their island. I interviewed their daughter

Anne, who described their experiences in Coventry during the Blitz.

‘My family were initially evacuated to Stockport but we soon moved to Coventry
because there was plenty of work there for my Dad, and we were assured it was

safe as houses’.

Just a few months later, my brother and I were walking along the street, on our

way back from the chip shop. Suddenly a German aircraft appeared overhead

and began to machine gun the street! I could see the stones flying out of the wall and

all the bullets – he was flying so low that I could see him grinning. My brother and I

dived into a garden to escape the bullets, and were very upset that we had crushed our

chips in the process!

Later, my family were all at home when another raid began – all these bombs were
coming down thicker and faster, that was the worst night of the Coventry Blitz.
Suddenly there was a very close bomb and the conservatory doors blew in.

My family moved from Coventry, and eventually ended up back in Stockport where
my father, Jim, joined the Essential Works Department, building airfields.’

To find out more facts about the Coventry Blitz, go to:


To find out more about the Guernsey Evacuation to England, go to:


Anne is pictured below with her mother and two friends – this image was taken in

Guernsey just before the evacuation to England

Ruth alexandre and anne just before evac with dulcie sackettt and son michael

My book  Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the World War 2 Home Front  consists of 100 WW2 evacuation stories with family photographs (published by Pen and Sword)




I have always had a passionate interest in social history, and during 2013  I collected evacuation stories from all over Britain for a new book on the experiences of 100 Second World War evacuees. It contains extracts from the personal stories of, not just children, but also the mothers and teachers who accompanied them – who spent the war in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These moving stories are accompanied by wartime photographs, many of which have been rescued from evacuees’ attics.

Evacuees arriving in Chinley, Derbyshire in 1939
Evacuees arriving in Chinley, Derbyshire in 1939

Prior to commencing work on this new book, I spent four years interviewing over 200 evacuees for my first book, Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War (published in 2012 by History Press). 17,000 evacuees fled the Channel Island of Guernsey to England in June 1940, just weeks before their island was occupied by Germany for 5 years.

Sadly, many of these evacuees have died since my book was published, so I feel that it is vital that the personal memories of Second World War evacuees are recorded now before they are lost for ever.

For my new book I include evacuation stories from all over Britain and also from children and adults who sought refuge on the British mainland from the Channel Islands and Gibraltar (British territories).  In fact, most of these evacuees were not send to the safety of the British countryside.
I also include stories from those who arrived in Britain from war torn France, Spain, the Ukraine and Belgium.
One French child, Paulette, was sent to Guernsey, then evacuated again with her Guernsey Catholic school to England where she was financially supported by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the American President.  I include the memories of Jewish children who fled Nazi Germany to England and Scotland. Kurt Gutmann stated years later “When I arrived in Scotland and was cared for by a very kind family, it was the first time in months, that I actually felt like a human being.”

Some children have very strong memories of leaving home and arriving at their new destinations whilst to others it was just a blur.

In July 1940, Lourdes Galliano was evacuated from Gibraltar to London, and recalls “My mother, my two sisters and I were taken to the Empress Hall in Earl’s Court, a skating rink that had been converted into an evacuee reception centre. The rows of tiered seats in the hall had been closed and folding camp beds had been jammed into the gaps – there were 750 of us! As we lay on our camp beds we could see that the domed ceiling was entirely made of glass. Not very reassuring had we known what was to come – the London Blitz!”

Lourdes Galliano

Peter St John Dawe was evacuated when his London orphanage was bombed.  He recalled “On arrival in Leighton Buzzard, nobody knew what to do with me. So I ate my bun and chocolate, and spent the night alone in the station waiting room. The next morning, I broke my piggy bank and bought a sandwich at the station buffet.

Many stories are very positive, with evacuees being extremely happy, gaining new experiences and making new friends. Many formed a lasting bond with the families they were billeted with and some did not want to leave their wartime ‘foster parents’ behind.  Adelaide Harris was evacuated from Hull to Lincolnshire then billeted with the Wright family and their children – Arthur and Renee. She grew to love them all and told me, “When I eventually returned home, I cried for days which wasn’t nice at all for her Mum and Dad. I also missed Arthur and Renee very badly.”

Doreen Holden was evacuated to Matlock in Derbyshire and told me, “A nice couple took me in because my name was Doreen, the same as their little girl’s! They treated me very well, bought me dolls and made me jelly and custard because I hated rice pudding! Their house was opposite Riber Castle and at night I sat in my bedroom watching the castle in the moonlight. It was magical and felt like Fairyland!”

Jim Marshall was evacuated from Rochford to Gloucestershire and told me, “My brother Dick and I were very lucky as we were chosen, along with 5 other boys, by Mrs Percival who lived at a huge manor house, Priors Lodge. The following morning, we looked out of the window with disbelief to see a huge long drive which seemed to disappear for miles into the distance!”

I have also gathered stories from mothers and teachers who travelled with the groups of evacuated school children, and who took on a huge amount of responsibility. Jessie Robertson recalled arriving in Bishop Auckland with her pupils and comparing that area with their home town of Gateshead, “Saturday was spent seeing that the children were settling in. They had all come from a new housing estate where every house had an indoor toilet and bathroom and most were housed in homes without either – as I was. Once a week, on a Friday evening, I was invited by the lady next door to use her bathroom. I think that it was the only one in that terraced street.”

Mr Philip Godfray

Mr Philip Godfray brought his pupils safely to England from Alderney in the Channel Islands, just days before Germany occupied his island. However, because he and his pupils had left their homes at very short notice, Phiip stated, “The total length of the journey from Alderney was sixty hours, with the delays. For the whole of this period the amazing spirit and faith of the children enabled them to respond to our guidance without a single whimper or word of complaint.”

Agnes Camp left Guernsey with her infant son Dennis, arriving in Stockport with no money or possessions. Dennis told me, “Mum moved us into a cottage which only had half a roof and the landlord, Mr Murdoch, knocked on the door saying ‘This place is condemned Mrs Camp!’ Mum replied ‘Well, I have nowhere else to go.’ and he had replied ‘Well, for your pluck, I will have the roof done!” 
Mrs Agnes Camp
Many evacuees were evacuated more than once. James Martin, aged 13, was evacuated with his brothers from the East End of London to Bridgwater, Somerset, in 1939, “We stayed there for four months then returned to London. In 1941 we returned to Bridgwater with our Mum, moving into the top half of a house whilst the resident family of Mrs Stone lived downstairs. There was tension between the families and Mrs Stone wouldn’t allow us to use the downstairs bathroom whilst we were eating.”   (James Martin’s story is reproduced courtesy of Ursula Martin, Somerset
Genealogy http://www.somersetgenealogy.uk.com)
Some evacuees never returned home to their families after the war, others were physically or mentally abused, and some died during their time away from home. George Osborn, and his sister were evacuated from Portsmouth to Wootton on the Isle of Wight. George told me, “Brenda and I were placed in separate billets. I was very badly treated in mine, but with Brenda’s help, I was moved into her billet. However, on 28 December 1941 I was on my own again when Brenda died of blood poisoning. This was caused by an infection after an inoculation against diphtheria, which was given, ironically, to immunize us against a killer disease of the time.”
George and Brenda Osborn – just before they were evacuated

I have also collected stories from people who took evacuees into their homes during the war, or who offered assistance to evacuees when they arrived in their towns and cities. Judy Fox’s family cared for two evacuees from Gosport and recalls “They lived in the house with my Uncle and Aunt, Mum, me and four cousins, so there was quite a crowd of us! In addition we had no running water, gas or electricity! Roger and Ruth went to school with my cousins, and they were treated exactly the same way as we were, as a part of the family.”

Another moving account comes from a Lancashire man, John Fletcher, who felt so sorry for the hundreds of evacuee children who arrived in his home town, Bury,  without their parents, that he tirelessly raised funds throughout the war so that they could have a Christmas present and a party every year.

There is so much more to the evacuation story than groups of children arriving at railway stations with labels tied their coats. Hopefully this book, with the help of the family photographs, will paint an intimate picture of how the British people opened up their homes to evacuated children and adults during the dark days of the war.

These photographs were kindly provided by the evacuees and their families.

book cover i can use for twitter fb etc

My book Evacuees: Children’s Lives on the World War Two Home Front was published on 30 September 2014 by Pen & Sword Books.  Here is the link to the UK amazon site:


Here is the link to the USA site:



My first book, Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War, can be viewed on Amazon where you can read the start free:





I organise Second World War Evacuation events in northern England and run a community group for Guernsey evacuees who did not return home after the war. My next event takes place on Saturday November 8th 2014 at St Mary’s Church and Conference Centre, Stockport. All are welcome, free entry, see my community page at this link:


You can view my Guernsey Evacuation blog here:


and my General history blog here: http://whaleybridgewriter.blogspot.co.uk/



Eight page article about the book in ‘Discover Your History magazine’ – November issue. You can

download it free here: http://www.history-hub.com/dyh/article/345/Life-as-an-Evacue

Lovely piece by Geraint Thomas (@ThomasTheNews on twitter)  in the South Wales Evening Post includes a Welsh evacuee story from my book:-


My thanks to David Lawlor (@LawlorDavid on twitter) for the great article on his History with a Twist blog which mentions some of the Irish evacuee stories in my new book:


The Glossop Chronicle mentions my ‘detective work’ regarding one evacuation story here (click on the images to enlarge)

Page 1
Page 1


Discover how Bury Grammar School helped Jewish refugees in Germany during WW2 via

Two reports in the Bury Times (click on the images to enlarge)



A lovely report in the Derbyshire Times


Report from the Buxton Adverftiser (click on the image to enlarge)


Report from the Dorset Echo 28 October 2014


A review in The Derby Telegraph  27th November 2014


Some of my Shropshire Evacuee stories in The Wrekin News, February 2015, scroll to page 28