|"They were lovely, lovely people, just wonderful. We started off calling them Mr.and Mrs. Nieman, but then we called them Mummy Dee and Daddy Al. At six years old you need a parent type of image but we knew they weren’t our real parents and that one day we would be going home to England.
Our own mother saved letters from us and they are sad to read. I finished mine, “love from Ursula Woolf”, which isn’t what a child would write to her mother unless she felt a stranger from her.
We lived in Chicago on Cedar Street in a 10th and 11th floor apartment - the Niemans, the cook, the maid, the butler and Diana and me. Last year Diana went from Boston, where she lives, and I went from Jamaica to a school reunion at the Girls’ Latin School. We stayed in America for six and a half years, until we were thirteen years old."
In June 1940, as Germany occupied France, a scheme was set up with the Commonwealth countries and America for government-sponsored children to be evacuated from Britain. 2,700 children of the 211,000 applicants reached their destinations, but the scheme was stopped immediately after 'The City of Benares’, a liner with 90 children amongst its passengers, was torpedoed and sunk on September 17th 1940 as it sailed in convoy across the Atlantic.
77 of the children on board died. Ursula was on the accompanying boat in the convoy.
11,000 privately arranged evacuees were sent abroad during the war.
|There are twenty-one accounts , with portraits and reproduced childhood pictures, in this series of children who were evacuated during the second worldwar. Some children went from cities to other parts of Britain, some went to the States and two went as German children from the bombing in the Rhine and on Berlin.
My portraits of them are shown alongside the evacuees’ own accounts of what had happened with extracts from contemporary writings and the ‘History of the Second World War - Problems of Social Policy’ by Richard Titmuss.
Evacuees of World War II is available for £30 + pp.
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