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By that time we were really poor. Dad was still ill and unable to work. My family all commented on how I talked different, so I had that strange feeling of not quite belonging yet wanting to be there because they were my family. I soon got used to being with Mum, and she got used to me. But with my siblings it was more difficult.

WWII Evacuee Experience Day

They are my family and I am very fond of them but they never went away like I did, so they don't understand that I have had these two lives. Two lives. That is what so many children of that generation had and for some it was, in retrospect, a bonus. But it wasn't a bonus for parents. As a mother, I feel deeply troubled at the thought of being forced to miss out on five or six years of my sons' childhood.

I'm profoundly grateful that I have never had to face that dilemma. In Operation Pied Piper, the family suffered but I feel the real losers, as in the legend, were the parents. It was as tough for many as one would expect.

What is an 'Evacuee'? • Children's Experiences during WW2 • MyLearning

Although some wrote of their immense gratitude to the kindly foster parents who had loved and cared for their children, there were far more stories of mothers feeling that they had missed part of their children's lives. Vera Brittain wrote in her memoir: "The small gallant figures which disappeared behind the flapping tarpaulin of the grey-painted Duchess of Atholl have never grown up in my mind, for the children who returned and eventually took their places were not the same; the break in continuity made them rather appear as an elder brother and sister of the vanished pair.

If you ask Don Bayley about his past he immediately talks about his evacuation to Lichfield, just 20 miles from his home in West Bromwich. It changed his life and that of his younger brother, Phil.

Mrs Coles, their foster mother, gave them something their own mother could never have done: a love of books and learning. And it was not one-sided. Twenty years after the war, Mrs Coles wrote to Don to say that she felt the children had been sent "to cheer her up".

School trip: World War 2 evacuation

I learned to appreciate all these different things from Mrs Coles. I learned how to talk to people and to address them properly and with confidence. I developed a different accent, dropping my Black Country slang. In fact, I have to say that Mrs Coles changed me completely and she loved me — I'm ashamed to admit it — more than my mother ever did. She made me feel wanted.

She called us My Boys and that really meant something to us. She cursed him for being "a bloody big 'ead" and was constantly nagging him to "shift yer bloody books".


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Even parents who were delighted that their children had had life-enhancing experiences and opportunities, found it hard to adjust to the changes. Fathers, often forgotten in the evacuation story, also felt they had lost out.

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In , Ted Matthews wrote to one of his four daughters whom he sent to America in "Sending you away has been, in some ways, a tragedy. I still think it was the right thing to do, even though events proved different from our fears. But it has been heartbreaking to miss these years of your lives. We shall meet again as almost strangers. Michael Henderson and his brother, Gerald, were sent to Boston in , aged eight and six. They lived with a loving family and completely absorbed the culture, education and American way of life. Now, as then, it felt like a positive gain on every level.

Pupils will learn 'in role' how to be 'good evacuees'. Pupils will be given information about 'Life on the Home Front' by their interaction with many different characters. There will be hands on activities and songs to keep up their spirits. Book a school trip. View access options below. You previously purchased this article through ReadCube. Institutional Login. Log in to Wiley Online Library.

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