Sunday, 20 June 2010

We're Going To The Country

"It's called evacuation. They take you to the station. They put you on the train ..." sing the evacuees and mums in We're Going To The Country from Lionel Bart's musical Blitz! The evacuation of many thousands of children from London (and indeed other large cities and towns) during World War Two is something that makes the head spin. For many children this remained the biggest thing in their lives. Being uprooted from their homes, often split up from brothers, sisters and parents, deposited with strangers in far away places with very different ways of life. My own mum was evacuated to south Wales at the start of 1941, after the heaviest part of the Blitz when the family's flat was destroyed and they were pretty much left with nothing at all. She has never forgotten leaving London by train, with a luggage label tied to her like Paddington Bear, arriving in Cardiff the night it was bombed (and a lot of Londoners thought sod this we might as well go 'ome and be killed there), going on to their new locality, being petrified at seeing the miners with their coal blackened faces, and let's not forget the kindness of strangers who took all these cockney urchins into their homes. Some kids were lucky, some were not. But honestly the immensity of the operation, and the way it changed people's lives. And yet how many songs are there about it all? Well,there was the Harry Phillips/Gaby Rogers number, Goodnight Children Everywhere, which was written "with a tender thought to all evacuated children ...", and performed by Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields, and even dear Gert and Daisy ...

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