Friday, 13 May 2011

Wartime Child Evacuees

The May meeting of the Furness Vale History Society was addressed by Gillian Mawson who told the fascinating story of the children evacuated from Guernsey durning the Second World War. Gillian has now written a follow up story.

by Gillian Mawson, History researcher at The University of Manchester

In June 1940, thousands of Channel Island evacuees, mostly school children with their teachers, and mothers with infants, came to Northern England, just prior to the German occupation of their islands.  They left a quiet rural island and settled in the industrial areas of Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.They owned only what they had in their suitcases, and remained in England for five years. Over 1,000 arrived in Stockport, with hundreds more arriving in Oldham, Bury and Wigan.

A number of the evacuated Guernsey schools re-established themselves in empty buildings in in order to keep the teachers and pupils together for the duration of the war. The attached picture shows the children and teachers of the Guernsey Forest School in their wartime school premises at Cheadle Hulme Parish Hall in Cheshire.

The evacuees had many different experiences, but one thing that many in the Bury area had in common was the memory of a local man, Mr J W Fletcher.  Mr Fletcher was a retired travelling salesman.  He took a keen interest in helping the evacuees, arranging parties and outings for the children and fund raising.  After the war Mr Fletcher travelled to Guernsey to be reunited with the families he had been so close to,  and a party of thanks was held for him.

With funding from the Beacon Trust, which enables university researchers to share their knowledge more widely with the public, I was able to work with Bury Archives Service to create a short documentary film. This captures the memories of three individuals impacted by the Guernsey evacuation in Bury in different ways.  On 28th October this film was launched at Ramsbottom Heritage Gallery and  gave many individuals an opportunity to be reunited after 70 years. The contributions of memories and photographs which we received from evacuees and local people provided a great deal of new information about this period in Guernsey’s and Bury’s history.
I have been interviewing Channel Island evacuees since 2009 and organised a three day event in June 2010, with Stockport Council, which marked the 70th anniversary of the Guernsey evacuation.

I am currently collecting the memories of evacuated Guernsey mothers and teachers in order to write about their experiences. For information on purchasing the film, or to find out more about my research, including public events, workshops for schools, publications etc, please visit my blog and website at:-

or email me at

The following is a news report from Channel Islands Television:


  1. Does anyone remember the Wild sisters, Nelly and Edith who had a ladies outfitters on Buxton Road in the 1940's? Their father owned a house on Marsh Lane opposite the signal box which we rented during the war. My mother used to buy silk stockings from their shop and they let me play behind the counter. We had no water, gas or electric. We had a well behind the house and used paraffin lamps and candles. Gow Hole Farm was where we got our milk from the Howards. Mr. Howard used to walk past our house on Sundays wearing a top hat on his way to church in New Mills. Just below the station next to the canal on Marsh Lane there was a lovely mansion type house and I always wondered who lived there and what the history of it was. I discovered recently that it was demolished long ago. One time I saw an elephant walking down Marsh Lane, it turned out to be a circus walking to their next showplace.

    1. Thanks for posting this story. I have repeated it on the front page of the web site with a photo of the Wild Sister.