Monday, 19 August 2013


I have spent most of this year gathering evacuation stories from all over Britain for a new book on the varied experiences of Second World War evacuees. It will contain personal stories from 100 evacuees - not only from children but also from evacuated mothers and teachers - who spent the war in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Each story is accompanied by a wartime photograph, many of which have been rescued from evacuees’ attics or provided by local archives. 

I have also interviewed children and adults who found refuge on  the British mainland during the war - from places such as the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, France and Belgium. 

Prior to starting work on this new book, I spent four years (2008 to 2012)  interviewing Guernsey evacuees for my first book, 'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War' (published in 2012 by History Press). However, during that time I was also contacted by people from all over Britain with their own amazing evacuation stories and photographs. I am now using these to produce my new book, which will be published in September 2014 by Pen and Sword books.

Sadly, many of the Guernsey evacuees I interviewed for my first book have passed away, so I feel that it is vital that Second World War evacuees’ stories are collected now before they are lost for ever. 

My new book will also include stories from people who took evacuees into their homes or who offered assistance to evacuees when they arrived in their towns.  One man from Lancashire, John Fletcher, felt so sorry for the hundreds of children who arrived in his town without their parents, that he tirelessly raised funds throughout the war so that they could have a Christmas present each year.

Some of the stories that I have collected are positive, with evacuees being extremely happy, gaining new experiences, making new friends, and forming a long lasting bond with the families they were billeted with. Some children and adults never returned to their own families after the war, others were physically or mentally abused, and some died during their time away from home. There is so much more to the evacuation story than just children arriving at railway stations with labels tied their coats. Hopefully this book, with the help of the family photographs, will paint a picture of how the British people opened up their homes to evacuated children and adults during the dark days of the war.

The book can be pre ordered from Amazon here: 

I will update this blog when I have more news about the publication of the book and its availability. However, you can contact me at this email address:
Gillian Mawson

You can read the opening pages of my first book, 'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War here, free:

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


I thought that readers may wish to see this poem, written by an evacuee, Joan Ozanne.

It describes her feelings on the day that she left her home in Guernsey in June 1940, to
be evacuated to England.  She did not return home for five years.

My childhood was left inside.
when I closed my bedroom door.
In the hall, distraught, father waits, mother weeps.
The dog unaware, wags his tail
and licks the tears from my face.

Reluctantly we speed to the harbour.
The smell of tobacco smoke on
father’s jacket will remain with me.
On the ship we say goodbye, perhaps forever.
I feel empty like a shell

(c) Joan Ozanne

Find out more about the Guernsey evacuation here:

Monday, 29 July 2013


During my work on the Guernsey evacuation, I have been lucky enough to reunite a number of evacuees with wartime friends.

I have also collected over 100 evacuation stories from all over Britain for a new book

However, there is now help at hand for anyone evacuated within Britain.  Researchers with the popular ITV show 'Surprise Surprise' want to help wartime British evacuees to be reunited with friends they have lost touch with!

If you would like them to help, please email
or call 0207 157 4550

My blog on the Second World War Guernsey evacuation is here:

and you can find out more about some of the evacuees I want to reunite here:
The image below shows the Tippett and Munro families (Guernsey evacuees) being reunited in Stockport, by me

Monday, 17 June 2013


On Saturday 15 June 2013 my family, along with many others, visited our local station to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the above railway line. Members of the 'Friends' group, who work very hard indeed to improve conditions at our station, were wearing Victorian clothing. They were not alone, and it was even more of a joy than usual to purchase rail tickets from Steve, who looked very smart indeed! (see below)

We viewed a wonderful historical display about the railway line and saw the very first ticket that was sold for the journey from Whaley Bridge to Buxton. We also took part in a quiz which caused every visitor to march back and forth between the waiting room, station platform, ticket office and car park. Very educational but also great fun! The history display informed us of a train crash which took place at Whaley Bridge on February 17th 1885, as a result of frozen signals. Three young men were on the engine at the time, and two were killed as the engine left the rails and ended up in the road.

Friday, 17 May 2013



I attended a very moving ceremony at the war memorial in nearby Chapel en le Frith yesterday, to remember RAF 617 Squadron's Flight Lieutenant William (Bill) Astell who died at the age of 23 when his Lancaster bomber exploded shortly after crossing the Dutch border on the flight to the dams. During the raid, another local man, Sergeant Jack Marriot, from New Smithy near Chinley, also lost his life. His Lancaster crashed after it had dropped its bouncing bomb on the parapet of the Eder dam. 


I also witnessed the  'fly past' by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's Lancaster bomber 'City of Lincoln' - on its way back from a fly over of the Derwent Dam in the Hope Valley. This dam was used by 617 Squadron during the war to practice the dropping of  'bouncing bombs'. The sight of this historic aircraft was a poignant moment, as it circled the village several times before leaving us.  Below are two photographs of the Lancaster. The one on the left    was taken by me, whilst the other was kindly provided by Becky at High Peak Radio.














You can read part of my book free here:  'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War'

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Silk Embroidered Postcards from World War One

Since January 2013 I have been a volunteer with the  'Derbyshire Lives Through World Wars' project:

I am searching through the High Peak's local museums, libraries and archives for items which shows the effect of war on the community, and asking local people to get in touch and share their stories. I am also contacting community groups to to find out what plans and support needs they may have to enable them to commemorate wartime events in High Peak. 2014 sees the centenary of the start of World War One on 28 July 1914, whilst 8 May 1945 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

I recently spent some volunteer time in Buxton Museum searching through their boxes of ephemera, on the hunt for items relating to World War One and the Second World War. Some of the finds were fascinating, and will be featured in due course on the 'Derbyshire Lives Through World Wars' blog.  I was particularly moved by a number of silk embroidered World War One postcards which had been sent by troops in France and Belgium to their families in Derbyshire. I returned home and decided to purchase some myself through online auctions. Yesterday I received the first of these postcards, 'United We Stand' and here it is:

The message on the back says 'To Mother from your loving son Ted'. Unfortunately the seller does not have any information on 'Ted'.

I was curious about the actual making of these postcards, and information on this can be viewed on several websites, including this one:

I aim to share more finds on this blog during the rest of my time on this project, which ends in late March. I hope to hear about the effects of war on the home front in the High Peak area, as well as the stories of local troops: stories and memorabilia on farming and food, family life, local war industries, the Land Army, church activities, hospitals, air raids, prisoners of war, evacuees and refugees, women and fund raising, and the local Home Guard. 

YOu can find out more at the following Derbyshire website:

POST SCRIPT: My volunteer work on this project ended in late March 2013 as the information gathered has been sent to Derbyshire County Council.

However, I am still looking for stories of wartime evacuees in Derbyshire. Please contact me through the comments box at the foot of this blog. Thank you.  (at July 2013)

Note: ** I have received requests for information about my book 'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War' - you can read part of the book free here:

Sunday, 13 January 2013

How my Grandmother risked her life in the dockyards during World War Two

A few years ago my Mum told me about her mother, Petrina McAndrew, and her wartime work. Petrina was born in 1911 and when war was declared, she was living close to Rosyth dockyard, across the river from Edinburgh. The dockyard was quickly brought up to full strength and Petrina, along with many other local women, began work as a riveter alongside the male workers. She was taught to pass red hot rivets to the male welders who were repairing war damaged ships. Rosyth dockyard and the Forth Bridge were considered prime German targets, so when war broke out, the government ordered children from the surrounding community to be evacuated. Less than half of the children were evacuated at that time, and Petrina was one of those mothers who refused to send her children – Margaret aged five and Jean aged three – away. A visit to Rosyth by Winston Churchill in 1940 underlined Rosyth's importance to the war effort.

Each day was fraught with danger, and Petrina's journey to work was dangerous too, as she travelled there early in the morning along unlit, icy roads. Initially there was hostility from some of her male colleagues, but once they saw that Petrina could pull her weight, things became more tolerable and she made some good friends. She was frequently subject to pranks from her friends in the dockyard and also from the crews of the ships and submarines that docked there. Further bombings took place around Rosyth in 1940 and at that point,

Petrina sent her two girls to stay with her sisters in Wolverhampton, believing it to be less of a target. But that is another story! Sadly Petrina died at the age of 48 in a moped accident when I was only two years old. Just the week before she died, she had sent me a lovely little coat to wear. I am keen to keep her memory alive as I am immensely proud of the arduous and difficult work that she undertook during the war. 

I recently discovered this photograph of my Grandmother, Petrina, with my Mum, Jean. It is so lovely I thought I would add it to this blog post.

NOTE You can view my books on Wartime Britain here: