Wartime evac­uees re­call fam­ily splits

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

‘‘If only I could stay with you, My train moves on, you’re gone from view, Now I must wait un­til it’s over.’’

Th­ese words are from an Enya song called Evac­uee. There’s a small group of peo­ple in Manawatu who know what be­ing an evac­uee is all about. As chil­dren dur­ing World War II, they were up­lifted from their par­ents’ care and evac­u­ated from metropoli­tan ar­eas into the coun­try­side to es­cape the Blitz.

The group used to meet at the Broad­way RSA, and still meet ev­ery two months for a catch up over a meal.

Feild­ing’s Jean War­ing was aged nine when she and her brother Peter went by train from Lon­don to Glas­gow. While they were in Scot­land, the war broke out, and the sib­lings found them­selves in ru­ral Ayr­shire, in the south­west of Scot­land.

‘‘We went away and didn’t come back un­til six years later.’’

She and Peter were lucky with their foster par­ents, though when they re­turned, no-one could un­der­stand a word they said. Ayr­shire is Rob­bie Burns coun­try and they’d picked up the di­alect.

Ge­off Barnes, not an evac­uee, but who set up the Manawatu branch of ERANZ (Evac­uees Re­union As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand) for Brit ex­pats who re­lo­cated to New Zealand, says they have recorded many sim­i­lar sto­ries.

‘‘They are on CDs wait­ing to be tran­scribed,’’ Ge­off says. ‘‘Hope­fully at some stage some­one will tran­scribe them into a book.’’

Dun­can Hall, who lives at Glen Oroua, was 14 months old when he was sent from Manch­ester to Brown Edge, a min­ing vil­lage in North Stafford­shire.

‘‘I never went back,’’ he says. ‘‘I was brought up as their son. I went home in the school hol­i­days. I ba­si­cally had two fam­i­lies.’’

Not all the sto­ries were happy ones. Coun­try hosts were told they had to take in evac­uees if they had room. Many did it be­cause of the money. There’s a book called I’ll Take That One that sums up how things were.

There were no po­lice checks ei­ther.

‘‘It would never be al­lowed now,’’ says Iris How­ell.

‘‘Of­ten par­ents didn’t know where their chil­dren were go­ing,’’ Jean says.

An en­dur­ing im­age of the times were the lug­gage la­bels at­tached to each child for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pur­poses, pre­served in the shape of the name badges Jean and her fel­low evac­uees still wear.


Wartime evac­uees from left Bar­bara Younger, Barry Richter, Jean War­ing, Dun­can Hall, and Iris How­ell, with Ge­off Barnes.

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