The Truth about the London Evacuation Program
My father and his sister grew up in London in the late thirties. They lived in a small row home with their parents, an Irish laborer and a countrywoman from the North. The family was desperately poor, but they were happy enough, and my dad won a scholarship to go to a real school, in order to learn a “proper” English accent. In those days, no one with a Cockney accent got a banker’s job or became a gentleman.
All of that changed when the bombings and air raids started. Houses were turned to rubble overnight. Families were wiped out.
In order to prevent the worst atrocities, the government came up with a program to get children out of the city and into the country during summer of 1938, away from the worst of the air raids. In their defense, the people who came up with the evacuation program were acting in good faith. And for some children, perhaps the great evacuation was fine.
But the program was put into place so quickly, and for so many people, that at times it was very disorganized. Nearly a million and a half people were “displaced.”
Children were put onto trains by parents who had no idea where their kids would end up. Brothers and sisters were split up. Country towns that were told to expect two hundred children received nearly a thousand.
For my father, being an evac was disastrous. The people who took him in considered him to be a “dirty Cockney.” He was put out of the house each morning and not allowed back in until the evening.
With nowhere to go, he used to sit in the church every day. The vicar noticed him, a small boy in the back pew who stayed after everyone else went home. The man began to talk to him, and later my dad became a preacher himself.
In the interests of truth, I must say that my father never was able to speak of any of this. I only learned the truth myself a few weeks ago. And I’d love to say that he became a strong, fine person after that experience, but he didn’t. After all that privation, once he returned to normal life he looked at life as a banquet, and one that he was unable to stop himself from sampling. Food, wine, women – he was simply unable to resist any of them. Now, at last, I can understand why.
I’ve used the evac experience in my current work in progress, “The Gramophone Society.” I want to imagine what children went through after being displaced. As I am a steampunk author, I’ve added in fictitious elements. Still, I do want to confront what the great evactuation program was and wasn’t.
That is coming from a position of truth, after all.
Alison Deluca is a unique author of steampunk fiction. She and her books can be found at the following links:
Watch the video book trailer for the Night Watchman Express!
*Many thanks to Alison for taking time to write this post for my 365 Days of Truth blog. If you can't find what you're looking for or have further questions, please feel free to contact us. --T. Anderson
*You can find a post called 'I am a Creator' that I wrote for Alison's blog here: Fresh Pot of Tea