Evacuees of the Second World War
ISBN: 978 0 74780 745 2
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 11 Nov 2009
At the mention of WW2, most people, myself included, think of Marines charging up a hostile beach, the German Blitzkrieg, and the brutal house-to-house fighting in Stalingrad. The story of the ordinary citizens was much less exciting. However, this seemingly dull story played such a big part of the generation of British people, especially children, during the six years of war in Europe. Author Mike Brown focused on this very topic in Evacuees of the Second World War.
Brown began by going to the beginnings of modern bombing during the Spanish Civil War. Experiences learned from Spain gave the government of the United Kingdom the understanding that evacuation plans must be in place should the need ever arise. When it came time, however, no plan ever executed according to plan at first, and Brown analyzed the oversights and errors that the government learned in the first evacuations. The evacuation programs focused primarily on children, and so was the book. As the children were moved from towns and cities toward the country side, school by school, sometimes in order and sometimes in near chaos, they had to live with their foster-parents who could appear to be so foreign with their regional accents and their regional foods. While the adults might be fighting on the front lines or on the production lines, these children fought to adjust to environments that was so strange to them. When the war ended in 1945, some parents found their children returning home as young adults. As British cities were rebuilt after the war, family relationships had to be re-bonded as well.
This book had a very nice presentation of photographs and posters that illustrated various topics of the evacuation programs. The photo captioned "Cases, labels, and tears" found on page 28 particular struck me. A young boy, standing amidst suitcases at probably a train station or bus depot, was on the verge of breaking into tears as he stood in a strange place, far away from his mother. It made me wonder if, deep down under, the emotions that went through his little mind was not too far off from what went through the minds of the front line soldiers patrolling in the strangeness of the South Pacific jungles.
Evacuees of the Second World War was one of those "change of pace" books I like to check out every so often to provide a reminder that WW2 was not just about the tactics, the machines, and the maps. The wars that made up WW2 changed the lives of families all over the world, and this book provided insight, albeit somewhat cursory, to one of those personal topics in the World War that could be so impersonal.
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939