Why No Museum of Evacuees?

By | Category: Travel rumblings

This week is the anniversary of the beginning of WWII.

It is also the anniversary of the children called evacuees. The government had developed a plan whereby all children in areas thought vulnerable to attack by the Germans were to be moved to safer areas and billeted with people other than their relations until it was safe to return. This huge logistic exercise began being carried out this week when almost three and a half million children were moved (ironically codenamed, Operation Pied Piper) by train. Clutching labels, gasmask cases and their luggage, children were moved miles from their homes.

In my mother’s family case, she and her sisters and brother were moved from Folkestone (near where any invasion was thought likely to occur) to Goytre near Abergavenny in South Wales. Other people living in large cities were moved to rural areas or the seaside and stories abound about kids seeing the seaside or cows for the first time.

The Imperial War Museum probably has the largest collection of evacuee material and recorded memories in the country with other local museums having their own contribution. This week as schools return in England and Wales there will probably be school visits planned and today there is a memorial service to be held in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

But there is no museum specifically devoted to this strange time in our history. We have museums devoted to teddy bears, foundlings, toys, brands, prams but nothing specific about this huge uprooting of children from their families. There will be countless stories about how it affected the children. But what of the effect on their parents? What of this decision to unilaterally protect so many millions of children from potential attack? Sometimes it is hard to get children to museums. But to museum about kids of their own age and even younger? About kids who went half way across the country by themselves? About kids some of whom would never see their families again?.

Maybe just as the Imperial War Museum has other branches up and down the country like Duxford and Manchester, it could create a new museum in time for the 75th anniversary in 2014.

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