Tag Archives: World War II

Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of Second World War by Gillian Mawson

7 Oct

GUERNSEY EVACUEES: THE FORGOTTEN EVACUEES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
by Gillian Mawson

In May 2008 when I discovered that over 17,000 Guernsey evacuees had arrived in England in June 1940, just before the Nazis invaded their island, I was astounded!  I knew that the Channel Islands had been occupied but had no idea that almost half the population had come to mainland Britain. I was equally amazed that the majority had been sent to towns in northern England from which local children had been evacuated 9 months earlier.

Disley evacuees arrival on the 20th July 1940. Courtesy R.Hammarskjold.

As I began to interview evacuees, most said they had never been asked to share their story before. I now realised that their experiences in England during WW2 had not been fully captured. I discovered that the evacuees had integrated into their local communities, but also set up around 100 Channel Island societies. In addition, they had contributed to the British war effort by joining the forces, working in ammunition factories and building aircraft. Others had joined the Home Guard, the ATS and the Fire Service. 5,000 Guernsey school children had arrived in England with their teachers and some of the schools had been re established in England for the duration of the war. Hundreds of young Guernsey mothers had arrived with their infants, whilst their husbands joined the forces or remained in Guernsey to protect their property. These women arrived with practically nothing, and although some adults, as well as children, had unhappy experiences, the majority described the kindness of their English neighbours. Eva Le Page told me ‘I left Guernsey with my baby, and a bag containing feeding bottles and nappies. I will never forget the kindness of my neighbours when I moved into an empty house in Bolton. When they helped you, they did it with good hearts.’

One Lancashire resident, John Fletcher, collected money throughout the war so that the Guernsey children in that area could receive a Christmas gift. There was no postal service between Guernsey and England during the war except for the occasional 25 word Red Cross letter. The evacuees were also helped by organisations outside England. One Guernsey school in Cheshire was financially supported by the ‘Foster Parent Plan for War Children‘ where Americans sponsored a child. One of the children, Paulette Le Mescam, was actually sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt and I helped the BBC to make a documentary about the wartime correspondence between Paulette and Mrs Roosevelt. I also asked the evacuees about their return to Guernsey in 1945, although not all returned home, as they felt that England could provide them with a better future. Many of those that did return had difficulty picking up the pieces of their pre war lives, or faced problems as a result of five years of separation from their families. Many children missed the English families who had cared for them for five years, and are still in touch with those families. Some of these evacuees actually returned to England because they could not settle down.

It became clear to me that this research was not just a contribution to Guernsey’s history, but also a missing part of the story of Britain’s Home Front. When I began my research, many of the evacuees had already passed away, but I was given access to their wartime diaries and correspondence, as well as hundreds of previously unpublished photographs. Local archives in the northern towns in which the evacuees had spent the war also provided me with a wealth of information.

To find out more about the lives of the Guernsey evacuees in England, you can follow my blog at:

http://guernseyevacuees.wordpress.com/writing-my-book-blog/

My book ‘Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War‘ is published on 1st November 2012, and available from amazon.co.uk   and also from amazon.com.

Private Lomas – In the Footsteps of my Father

31 Mar

Private Lomas at Loch Promenade in Douglas on the Isle of Man between 1942-1943. Courtesy V. Lomas.

This is a photograph of Private Sidney Lomas seen proudly with his Fleur de Lis cap and collar badges, taken at Loch Promenade in Douglas on the Isle of Man between 1942-1943. In the background of the photo is the Monaville hotel.

 

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visiting the Manchester Regiment in Manchester in 1951.Courtesy V. Lomas.

Private Lomas enlisted in the Manchester Regiment – 9th Battalion The Manchester Regiment (TA) on April 8th, 1937 until he was discharged on the February 3rd, 1945.

 

Private Lomas was stationed in France from April 16th to May 25th with the 9th Battalian during WWII and was engaged in particularly heavy fighting at Arras, northern France which led to the Allies eventually  abandoning the town to the Germans. After which Private Lomas was repatriated in what would eventually become the largest evacuation in world history at Dunkirk in France between May 29th June 4th, 1940.

 

Private Lomas seen with forage cap, shortly into his military service. Courtesy V. Lomas.

In total over 330,000 Allied soldiers were rescued in the evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, after being cut off by the advancing German troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Private Lomas was one of the fortunate soldiers who managed to scramble aboard one of what became known as the “Little Ships” – a ramshackle flotilla of 693 private fishing boats, pleasure craft and merchant vessels – that sailed from Ramsgate to the French coast knowing nothing of the horrors that awaited them (Hardy 2011).

Private Lomas with the troops in Llandudno in 1940. Courtesy V. Lomas.

 

After Dunkirk, Private Lomas was posted to the Isle of Man from Okehampton, South Devon in September, 1940, after the 9th Battalion had reorganised at Llandudno, north Wales in the aftermath of the Dunkirk evacuation. 

The Isle of Man throughout WWII (1939-1945) and WWI (1914-1918) was used by the British Government as a base for Alien Civilian Internment camps, where civilians who were deemed to pose a threat to Britain were imprisoned without charge, trial or set term.

 

Private Lomas in full uniform. Courtesy of V. Lomas.

After the war broke out, all Germans and Austrians had to appear before a tribunal set up in their local area inorder to classify and categorise them by putting them into three categories of ‘risk’ that they potentially posed to Britain: ‘A’ being -doubtful risk, posing a potential threat – to be interned at once.’B’ loyal but a little suspect and can remain at liberty and ‘C’ posing no risk.

Groups who were also seen as a threat to national security were also interned on the Isle of Man, such as the British Union of Fascists (BUF) formed by Sir Oswald Mosley in 1932 and the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Private Lomas outside the Monaville hotel, Loch Promenade, Douglas, Isle of Man between 1942-1943. Courtesy V. Lomas.

Whilst on the Isle of Man, Private Lomas was an internee and prison guard at most of the internment camps, Douglas Aliens Detention Camp, Hutchinson Camp where world famous musicians, the Amadeus Quartet have there foundations.

Private Lomas was also stationed at camps at Sefton, Granville, Ramsey North and Moorach on the 15th November 1941

After his service on the Isle of Man came to an end Private Lomas was transferred to the Pioneer Corps in 1942 and attached to the Oldham Pioneer Department, after which he was transferred to Donningtorn on November 3rd 1942, to await his return to the Isle of Man on December 29th 1942, where he was stationed at the Onchan Internment Camp, which was the first camp in the Douglas area.

After his service on the Isle of Man came to an end, Private Lomas would also serve at the Woodhouselee POW Camp, at Milton Bridge in North Midlothian until 1944.

Private Sidney Lomas total service to the army and his country was 5 years and 156 days.

Private Lomas in 1941. Courtesy V. Lomas.

Acknowledgments

Thank you to V. Lomas for their  invaluable help in writing this post.

References

Hardy, F. (2011). Dunkirk’s forgotten heroes: It’s a tale of extreme bravery, terrible tragedy and the cruellest twist of fate… now a new TV show finally brings it to light. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2046410/Dunkirks-forgotten-heroes-Find-My-Past-TV-brings-tale-light.html. Last accessed 31st Mar 20

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