I have to admit that I am hooked on my Kindle, but sometimes a book comes along that you have to buy in hardback or paperback. A book filled with great photo’s that you can leave on the coffee table and browse through as the mood takes you. One such book that I have to admit that I have mentioned a few times on my blog is ‘Guernsey Evacuees – The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War’ by Gillian Mawson.
Gillian has spent years researching this wonderful book, full of some very personal stories. Being a true ‘Guernsey Donkey’, I could not resist buying a copy from W H Smith when I was last over in Guernsey, it was my Christmas present to myself.
On the 28th June 1940 German aircraft attacked St Peter Port harbour, firing indiscriminately on the island as they flew over, forcing the local people to take cover. Bombs were dropped on the harbour and tomato lorries were shot at in the belief that they contained ammunition. 23 people were killed and 36 wounded in this attack. The only defence the islanders had was a lewis gun on the mail boat, hardly a match for the German forces.
This raid triggered the evacuation of Guernsey to slightly safer shores in the UK, some adults and children decided to stay and secure their homes from the impending occupation by German forces, many touching books have be written about the plight of those who stayed. However, Gillian’s book covers many unpublished stories of those who were evacuated. Some children never returned and many didn’t see their parents for five very long years. You can only imagine how hard that must have been for a young child, plus the heartache endured by their parents.
The evacuees were sent to northern England, some with their parent, some alone. This was seen as a safer area at the time, and this is how one child saw it.
‘There were rivers and canals, viaducts, trains and noisy railway stations, cotton mills belching black smoke into the air, and coating everything with a dark grey dust, and the women wrapped in shawls who looked pale as if they never saw the sun.’
Guernsey has no railways, rivers, cotton mills and is usually sometimes called the sunshine island, so you can imagine what an additional shock this must have been for most children that have never before left the safe clean, calm shores of Guernsey, to arrive in such a dark and dismal place.
Thanks to the warmth and generosity of the Northerners, most of the children settled down in to a near normal lifestyle and the bonds that grew last still to this day between Guernsey and UK families, including my own.
I have to admit that I have not read the whole book, I want to savour it in small doses, but have browsed some of the chapters, which I find fascinating and very touching, this book is very much fact and not a fictitious war story. It is a book that I will treasure, often browse through and reflect on the history of my island.
Most true ‘Guernsey Donkeys’ or ‘Gurn’s’ will enjoy this fascinating book and I am sure many fans of Guernsey will do too, so get it on your Christmas list before it’s too late.
Thank you Gillian for all your time and hard work in creating a very important historical account of The Forgotten Evacuees.