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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What happened to the Forgotten Evacuees?

What happened to  all the Guernsey children banished from their island home during World War Two? This is the question historian Gillian Mawson  answers in her new book Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War,  published on November 1 by the History Press. My own father was evacuated to Oldham, Lancashire, in 1940, and, as part of The Next Big Thing  Wednesday blog, I've invited Gillian to tell us how the book came to be.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In 2008, I discovered that around 17,000 Channel Islanders had fled the islands to mainland Britain in June 1940, just before the Nazis occupied their islands. Some did not return to Guernsey after the war but remained in the communities in which they had settled. I had to find out more about this! I began to search for surviving evacuees, and this practically took over my life. I have interviewed over 200 so far and organised several evacuee reunions. I have also formed a community group for those who live in northern England, and we share their wartime stories at public events in an interactive way.

What genre does your book fall under?

British social history – the history of Britain's World War Two Home Front

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a film?

Eleanor Roosevelt: Meryl Streep
Guernsey Headmasters: David Morrissey and Benedict Cumberbatch
Teachers: John Simm, Julie Walters, Victoria Wood
Mothers: Emily Blunt, Joanne Froggatt,
Mr Fletcher: John Savident
It would be wonderful to have some of the children from the actual evacuees' families as the children in the story.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An unforgettable and untold true story of Second World War British evacuation

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It is being published by the History Press – a specialist history publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
7 months working 9 til 5 Monday to Friday

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
'Churchill's Children' by John Welshman, 'When the Children Came Home' by Julie Summers

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Meeting the evacuees and realising that in the majority of cases, their amazing and emotional stories had not been shared with the general public. I was also given access to teachers', children's and adult evacuees' diaries which paint a vivid picture of their experiences in England during the war.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I use the evacuees' own words throughout the book, in order to bring it to life for the reader. I discuss the young mothers who left the island with their infants, leaving their husbands behind. Guernsey schools were evacuated to England and some teaches re-established their schools in England for the duration of the war.

 They received assistance from the British public, but also from Canada and the USA. One Guernsey school was financially supported by wealthy Americans, with one little girl exchanging letters with 'Aunty Eleanor' - Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, the American President's wife. For a detailed look at the chapters, see:

Thanks, Gillian, and finally please keep an eye out for the blogs of writer Peter Kenny who, along with Richard Fleming, is the author of The Guernsey Double, a book of delightfully original poems about the island.


Linda Mitchelmore said...

This is a very interesting and emotional subject. And one quite close to me because my mother had three evacuee children (two sisters and their little brother) for quite some while in Wales. She was very fond of them and used to make them clothes.
Thanks for putting up this interview, Marilyn - I will certainly buy the book.

Dizzy C said...

Lovely interview, Ladies.

I had no idea about this part of history until I read The Guernsey Litarary &PPS. I found it fascinating and a little sad that this part of history is not well known.

This book sounds very interesting and I wish you well with it.


Guernsey Girl said...

Thanks for following my blog, Carol - it's lovely to see you here. So many people have said they haven't been able to join through Google that I've had to ask them to follow by e-mail - maybe you've changed my luck!