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Britain's Wartime Evacuees (ePub)

The People, Places and Stories of the Evacuations Told Through the Accounts of Those Who Were There

Military > Frontline eBooks > Frontline: WWII P&S History > Social History WWII

By Gillian Mawson
Frontline Books
Series: Voices from the Past
File Size: 12.6 MB (.epub)
Pages: 214
Illustrations: 32 black and white
ISBN: 9781848324435
Published: 6th December 2016


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In the press!

As featured in The Express: The other victims of war: Revealing the plight of child evacuees 

Author article as featured on Family Tree website - Memories of World War Two evacuees

'Top Choice' in the March 2017 edition of Family Tree magazine - 'powerful collection of stories'

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With the declaration of war in September 1939, the Government Evacuation Scheme was implemented, in which almost one and a half million civilians, mostly children, were evacuated from the British cities thought most likely to be the targets of aerial bombing. The fear of invasion the following year resulted in another mass evacuation from the coastal towns.

Hundreds of thousands of school children, and mothers with babies and infants, were removed from their homes and families, and sent to live with strangers in distant rural areas and to entirely unfamiliar environments. Some children were also sent to countries of the Commonwealth, such as Canada and Australia. The evacuations had an enormous impact upon millions of individuals, both those that were evacuated and those that had to accommodate and care for the displaced multitude.

Over the course of eight years research Gillian Mawson has interviewed hundreds of evacuees from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Families have also allowed her access to the testimony of those who have passed away. Coupled with the extensive newspaper coverage of the day and official documents Britain’s Wartime Evacuees provides not just a comprehensive study of the evacuations, but also relates some of the most moving and emotive stories of the Second World War.

"This is an outstanding piece of oral history, telling it as we remember it, good, bad and terrible."

Historical Novels Review

Feature by

East Yorkshire Family History Society

A heart wrenching read of the children and others evacuated during the war. Some of the stories are heart breaking awful, each person who lived through the evacuation will forever live with the memories some had good experiences some terrible. A fascinating read.

NetGalley, Abby Siverman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The attempt to keep children safe from the dangers of bombing in WWII led to the evacuation of many children from the big cities, especially London. I’ve read many books on the subject including a number of first hand accounts. In all the stories, there is always a mixture of sadness in the tales. Torn away from your parents and often siblings, treated almost like cattle in the long and involved process of moving large groups of children and getting the settled in new places tugs at the heart. Yet, for all that, many children lived full lives thanks to the efforts of those who transported and cared for them.
This book provides a good balance. There were some horror stories about how the children were abused and misused. Yet, from this book, it is clear, that was a minority of the stories. Often, when someone noticed something was wrong, actions were taken to remove the child from the grasp of those who would harm him. I suspect in the magnitude of the event, it was given that there would be some horrible instances.
But this book is filled with reminiscences of kindness, generosity and love. It broadened most of the children’s view of the world, providing them for a glimpse at how other people lived. In many of the stories the foster parents, for that is what they were, took better care of the children than their own parents. It led to some testy reunions at the end of the war and relationships that lasted until death in many cases.
There were tragedies even when all the best intentions are to keep them safe. Thankfully, they were not common but their stories add to the wrenching emotion that must have been felt by both child and parent. Be prepared for some sad stories but also some wonderful ones. Crises tend to bring out the worst and the best in people.

NetGalley, Susan Johnston

A very well put together, informative account of the evacuations in Britain during WW2.
Filled with personal accounts, newspaper reports and a collection of photographs. This book provides a detailed look into the past.

I'm a huge fan of reading historical books, and being able to learn about a certain time period or event. But, what really grabs me is when the bool provides you with a connection. Making it less like you're reading a textbook of facts, and instead diving into the human experiences.
This book did that so well, and I enjoyed learning about the evacuation through the eyes of those who lived it.

NetGalley, Hannah Harvey

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A really brilliant piece of social history, this book is also a gripping and fascinating read. The experiences of those who were evacuated during the Second World War, this book covers both the good and the bad. For some children evacuation was an enriching and positive experience, for others it was a sad struggle and for some it was a fatal move. The inclusion of former evacuees memories of this period really brings the book and their experiences to life. Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Katrina Oliver

At the beginning of WWII students, teachers and mother's of the youngest citizens were evacuated to the country. Children went to school each day not knowing whether they would be returning to their homes that night. Mothers said goodbye to their children not knowing if they would see them again. Reading about the process to evacuate mass amounts of children to other parts of England was mind-blowing. Done without much organization in some areas, without any sort of evaluation of the homes these children were entering, the conditions some evacuees lived in - close to 80 years later it's hard to comprehend. Told mostly through interviews of evacuees, their families and some of the foster parents that invited these children into their homes "Britain's Wartime Evacuees" is a touching reminder of how a country pulled together during the most dire of times. As a mother I could not imagine the strength it took for parents to send their children alone on a train to the country with nothing more than a tag on their coat to identity where they came from not knowing when you get to hold them again. This is a great read for History lovers.

NetGalley, Emma Hendrickson

As mentioned in

Guernsey Press & Star

The Second World War saw the evacuation of thousands of schoolchildren, mothers with babies and infants, from areas thought likely to be bombed - 1½ million in all.

They were sent to live with strangers in distant and rural areas and in environments totally unfamiliar to them - some had never even seen a cow!

The rigid class differences of the time were highlighted by some of the children’s manners and behaviour. Some were used as cheap labour on farms, while others had an eye opening and happy experience.

‘Voices from the Past - Britain’s Wartime Evacuees’ is an absorbing and interesting book, with lengthy quotes from those who experienced the evacuations. It’s well worth a read, and adds to the other ‘Voices from the Past’ series

Rotherham FHS

The author has interviewed hundreds of Second World War evacuees from all over Britain, and with additional research from contemporary newspapers and official document, she provides a comprehensive study of schoolchildren and mothers with babies and infants who were relocated as part of the governments policy of the time.
The book includes personal stories from mothers and teachers who accompanied the children, from evacuees themselves who describe the experiences and emotions in coming to terms with new places and people, and from the foster parents who took them into their homes and families. They tell not only of life-changing and life-saving experiences but also of the tragedies of children who suffered cruelty or abuse.

B&A FHS Journal No. 163

Gillian Mawson has spent eight years researching this subject, interviewing hundreds of evacuees from all parts of the United Kingdom, as well as the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. In this volume of Pen & Sword's Voices From The Past series, she skilfully blends narrative and these first-hands testimonies of lives impacted by evacuation, and her skill is in allowing these voices to be heard in depth, rather than attempting to paraphrase; it is the interviews that provide emotion.

Your Family History magazine, May 2017

As featured in.

Pennant, Forces Pension Society

In her new book Britain's Wartime Evacuees, historian Gillian Mawson told myCornwall some intriguing and highly personal stories about evacuees living in Cornwall.


'...the most comprehensive, as well as the most moving, account of the subject I have ever read.'
'I cannot recommend the book highly enough.'

Reflections Magazine

World War 2 was the first war to include the widespread deliberate targeting of civilians, and particularly of children, anywhere in accessible enemy territory. Millions were evacuated from British cities to the greater safety of the countryside and the more remote areas. This large scale movement of people is reviewed in this study, using the voices of those who were there.
Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


As featured on

High Peak Radio

As featured in

Grimsby Telegraph

As featured in

Eastern Daily Press

The stories in this book are extremely emotive with tears and laughter, joy and heartache in equal measure. Every evacuee's experience was different, but it had a huge impact on their future lives. This is a thoroughly absorbing read and is highly recommended if your relative was an evacuee or a foster parent, of if you simply want to know more about the Second World War evacuation scheme.

WDYTYA? Magazine, March 2017– reviewed by Michelle Higgs

As featured in

Antiques Diary, March 2017

As featured in

Lowestoft Journal

As featured on

BBC Radio Mersyside

First, let me declare an interest; I was a Guernsey war-time evacuee at age 4 years.
It is immediately apparent that this book is the result of extensive research. The recollections of evacuees are arranged in chapters with linking prose by the author. Each contribution is referenced with a sequential number with the contributor and source given in the notes at the end of the book.
The work is well-written and gives a very good account of the many aspects of the huge organisational undertaking which was the evacuation of mainly children from perceived dangerous areas of Great Britain, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. It does not shrink from reporting where problems were experienced; for the evacuees, their relatives, and for those charged with caring, supervising and fostering.
It is apparent that many people found the switching of home life from one family to another and then back again a traumatic experience. Some suffered mentally, some physically and some materially. Others grew to love their wartime carers more than their own family, and some of these took up permanent residence with their carers after the war.
It is clear that some evacuees remembered far more than others. Some names crop up in several chapters, with relatively lengthy stories. I marvel at this because I have only one recollection of my journey from home to a new address in Bolton; our ship passing a somewhat rusty “gun tower” at the entrance to the English harbour. Certain periods in my evacuation are blank, but this book gives me plenty of ideas as to what might have happened during those periods.
All-in-all, this is a fascinating record of a difficult period in our history. I recommend it.

Eric Brett, Guernsey War-Time Evacuee

As featured in.

Furness Vale Local History Society

Guest blog as featured on The House on Schellberg Street.

Gillian Mawson, Guest Blog

As featured in

Gibraltar News

As featured in

Buxton Advertiser

As featured in

Lancashire Telegraph

This book is the result of extensive and meticulous research. It lifts the lid on the traumatic, sometimes humorous, experiences of WW2 evacuees, most of them young children, whose stories never hit the headlines at the time and rarely since. Readers can enter into the emotions of those whose situations are recorded so vividly and movingly, and be transported into a world which most today have never known. Len Roberts

Amazon Reviewer

This book tells the amazing story of the worlds biggest evacuation of people in WW2 Some stories are sad ,some happy.
A must have for WW2 history.One of those books one does not want to put down.

Amazon Reviewer

The author has brought to life the story of children sent away from parents to total strangers, in a different environment to their own.
The book is a valuable account of the effect the evacuation had on children, parents and foster parents.
I consider it is important that this book is read not only today, but the excellent comprehensive information it contains must always be available in libraries and will be essential for researchers in the future.

Amazon Reviewer

As featured in.

The Daily Express

As featured on

Family Tree Magazine website
 Gillian Mawson

About Gillian Mawson

Gillian Mawson has made a particular study of the evacuations of the Second World War. She has organised evacuee reunions, provided research to radio and television documentaries on the subject of evacuation and run a community group for evacuees. She is also the author of two other books on the evacuees. Gillian lives in Whalley Bridge, Derbyshire.

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