Friday, 30 May 2014


The RSPCA magazine 'Animal Life' recently featured this very moving wartime poster. Produced in August 1915 in The Times newspaper, it advertised the RSPCA's Fund for Sick and Wounded Horses and sought £20,000 to build more veterinary hospitals for injured horses.

As well as being a very moving poster, the detail and artwork is extraordinary:

You can also read an extract from the trench diary of a Derbyshire soldier, Thomas Beswick, here:

You can also take a look at my friend Julian's website which details the stories of First World War soldiers from Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. It includes details of their lives, their war service and contains some wonderful family photographs. Work on this website is ongoing, so do revisit the site now and then to check on progress. If you have information that Julian might add to his website, please contact him via his site 

                                      This injured soldier received a very special visitor - his horse

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


A new Liberation flag flew on top of The Mast for the first time during this year’s (2014) Liberation Celebrations. I was fortunate enough to be visiting Guernsey on Thursday 8th May to see the flag being raised  (in the pouring rain) by Tony Browning from the Guernsey Sea Cadets. It remained on the Mast until Friday 16 May.

The new flag carries the slogan, “Remember and Celebrate” along with “The Day of Liberation” in Guernsey French. Deputy Mike O’Hara, Minister for Culture and Leisure said, “The dates for the new flag to fly are a significant part of Guernsey’s cultural history."

On 8th May 1945 War in Europe officially ended
On 9th May the German garrison in Guernsey surrendered on HMS Bulldog and the German garrison in Jersey surrenders on HMS Beagle

This was followed on 10th May by the Liberation of Sark, on 12th May the Liberation of Herm and finally on 16th May 1945, the Liberation of Alderney which fully ended German occupation of the Channel

Deputy Mike O'Hara added “We feel these important dates are remembered by all future generations and by flying this flag during these dates, we hope that the significance of Liberation Celebrations will help be remembered forever.”

Find out more about the occupation and evacuation of Guernsey in 1940 here:

Monday, 12 May 2014


I was very pleased to be invited to join the Writer’s Blog Tour recently by my Twitter friend Marc Mordey at
I hope you’ll enjoy your visit, and will go on to sample the blogs of other writers, highlighted below. We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair, (Blairgowrie Rattray and The Glens Book Festival) in Perthshire, Scotland, invited us to take part. (see

Marc Mordey invited the writers Helen Carey, Stewart Bartlam and myself, Gillian Mawson, to follow him on the tour.

So, now it’s my turn and there are 4 questions for me to answer :

1. What am I working on?
I have just completed the text and images for a new book 'Evacuees: Children's Lives on the WW2 Home Front' (Pen and Sword, September 2014). It contains the personal stories of 100 evacuees - not just children but from mothers and teachers who accompanied them - who spent the war in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I also include evacuees from the Channel Islands and Gibraltar, France, Spain, the Ukraine and Belgium. You can read extracts from the stories, and see wartime photographs, here: 100 EVACUATION STORIES FROM THE SECOND WORLD WAR 
My previous book, 'Guernsey Evacuees: The Forgotten Evacuees of the Second World War' (History Press) told the overlooked true story of 17,000 evacuees who fled Guernsey to England in June 1940, just days before it was occupied by Germany for five years - see :GUERNSEY EVACUEES: AN OVERLOOKED STORY

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That is a difficult question to answer as others write about Second World War evacuation. I can only say that I have a real passion for interviewing evacuees to find out what their experiences were during the war. I feel truly honoured to listen to their stories and admire their resilience during such a difficult time in our history. I love sharing their stories, wartime photographs and documents with the public via books, talks, newspapers and my blogs. I also reunite evacuees with wartime friends, create workshops for schools, organise public events and create displays for museums. Due to the advanced age of Second World War evacuees, it is vital that their stories are recorded now before it is too late. 

At my most recent event, evacuee Mary Luxton showed children this teddy bear which she took with her,  from Guernsey  to England,  in June 1940 (See more about this event in the following blog)

3. Why do I write what I do?
I think I have partly answered this question in the one above. I began to interview evacuees in 2008 and have not stopped since! The total interviewed to date is 450 from all over Britain and Europe. I continue to interview an evacuee every week or two, and to search through archives for related wartime documents. I have ideas for several more evacuation books.

4. How does my writing process work?
I usually begin with interviews, then examine wartime archives in the area in which the evacuee was billeted. Once I have gathered enough interviews, photographs and archive material together, I sit down to work out the format of the book, then proceed to write. For my first book, 'Guernsey Evacuees', I was able to write during the day, so would sit at my desk from 10am to 5pm every weekday, constructing chapters. My new book 'Evacuees' was constructed differently. I have a part time job and care for an elderly relative, so fitted the work in whenever I had some spare time. 

In 1939, Dr Maxwell sent this letter from Lancashire to Germany, promising that he would care for Dr Plessner's refugee son, Wolfgang
And finally, I want to introduce you to 3 friends whose work is wonderful – please visit their blogs to find out more. These talented folks will be offering their answers to the same 4 questions on Monday 26 May. And anything you can do to help us all share our words and ideas through your own networks would be much appreciated. Thank you

Anne Allen:
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves, which included Guernsey, where she lived for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. By profession Anne is a psychotherapist, but recently took up her pen to write novels, set on Guernsey. Dangerous Waters and Finding Mother are published and a third is incubating

Rita Roberts:
At the beginning of World War 2, Rita was evacuated from her school in Birmingham, England. She remembers being frightened and terrified, having to wear a gas mask and not knowing where she was going. However, she was billeted with a good family who treated her well – she was one of the lucky evacuees. She was given nice clothes to wear and treated to a holiday once a year. The lady was understanding but strict. Rita became an archaeologist later in life and has written her autobiography, 'Toffee Apples & Togas'. She is now studying the Minoan linear B ancient Language. BLOG:

Michelle Higgs:
Based in the West Midlands, Michelle is a freelance writer and author specialising in history and heritage. She is the author of seven social history books, most of which are about the Victorian era. As a writer, she is always keen to root out the seemingly insignificant details which help to bring history to life. Her latest book A Visitor’s Guide to Victorian England (Pen & Sword) was published in February. BLOG: and

Sunday, 11 May 2014

See the toys taken to England by Guernsey evacuees in June 1940

I  recently returned from a wonderful visit to Guernsey during their Liberation Week. Their Liberation Day is on the 9th of May and 2015 marks 70 years of Liberation from German occupation (and 75 years since the Evacuation of the island).

On Wednesday 7th May 2014 I organised a special Evacuation event in the Tourist Information Centre's gallery. We displayed some of the actual items that Guernsey’s evacuees took with them to England when they fled their island in June 1940.  The children were only supposed to take essential clothing with them on the evacuation ships, due to lack of space. However,  many managed to get a favourite toy into their small suitcase, bag, basket or pillowcase. The photograph below was taken in June 1940 as some of the Guernsey children, teachers and mothers arrived in England. It clearly shows how little they were able to carry

Photograph reproduced courtesy of the Bolton News (click to enlarge)
I was able to find a number of evacuees who still possess toys, and other items, which they took with them to England in June 1940.  Some of the evacuees live in Guernsey, others live in northern England (many did not return to Guernsey in 1945.)  These precious items were displayed at my Evacuee event, and Guernsey residents and visitors were invited to view them and to gently handle them.

(click to enlarge the photograph)

We had a large number of visitors, of all ages, including Guernsey residents and visitors to the island.   Children were encouraged to choose their favourite items and some were photographed with their chosen toy. Above are some of the items that were brought along on the day by evacuees:  a school cap and scarf, tiny evacuation suitcase, gas mask, 'Peter Pan' book, ration book, wooden toy soldiers, cigarette cards, wooden toy car, two dolls and a little dress. We also had a teddy bear, family photographs, another evacuation suitcase, a pencil case and evacuee's identity labels.

Some of the Guernsey Evacuees at the event, alongside my display of the Evacuation story

Mary Luxton with her teddy bear 'Nelson'
Julia Madden chose this doll

This child was rather unwilling to part with Joan Ozanne's wartime doll
This little boy could not decide on an item for some time

Hazel Gould (nee Hall) with her 1940 suitcase

This boy chose a hand made wooden toy car

Joan Ozanne and John Helyer shared their wartime stories

 The children and their parents also had an opportunity to speak directly to the evacuees who had brought these precious items to the event.

I provided displays on the walls of the gallery which told the evacuation story in great detail. This included wartime photographs, newspaper articles, archive documents and Red Cross letters

Erica Ninnim (evacuated to Whitby during the war) could not attend the event but I visited her home, later, to photograph her with 81 year old toy rabbit Wilfie:
Erica with Wilfie (Wilfred) the 81 year old toy rabbit

More of the photographs that I took at my event will be uploaded onto  during May 2014.

You can find out more about the Guernsey Evacuees on my blog at:

I would be glad to receive your comments at the foot of this page, or via my Guernsey blog above.

My thanks to Guernsey's Liberation Committee for providing the event facilities at the Tourist Information Centre.

Today, Whaley Bridge's War Memorial was Re-Dedicated

Today, members of my family and many others from our village, of all ages, attended a service to re-dedicate our War Memorial in Whaley Bridge Memorial Park.

 The rain poured heavily throughout the service, but we heartily sang 'Onward Christian Soldiers' and 'Jerusalem'. The downpour ceased momentarily when The Last Post was sounded. It was a very emotional service for all.

Friday, 2 May 2014


Today I re-read the evacuation account of child evacuee Margaret Le Poidevin who arrived in Stockport, Cheshire, from Guernsey, with her mother, in June 1940.

I was starkly reminded of the plight of many of the Channel Island mothers who, when they were released from the Evacuee reception centres,  discovered that they were not allowed to rent property unless their husbands were in the Forces.

As a result, many of the mothers whose husbands were trapped in occupied Guernsey shared houses with Guernsey mothers whose husbands were in the Forces. In one Stockport house, four mothers, with two or more children each, were crammed into a four bedroomed house for several years.

Margaret Le Poidevin and her mother shared a home (an empty corner shop building) with Mrs Tippett and her children. Their home is shown below.

In addition, some mothers were told by local officials "You cannot possibly care for your children on your own, without your husband. You should consider letting them live with local families until the war ends." To mothers who had left their homes and possessions behind in Guernsey, this really was the last straw.They refused to hand their children over. They were all that they had left!

You can find out more about this evacuee ‘homesharing’ in my ‘Diary of an Evacuee’ page on my Guernsey Evacuation website:-