– Whaley Bridge researcher and writer Gillian Mawson, is writing a book about the astonishing influx of child evacuees from occupied Guernsey into the Stockport area, including Disley, and the High Peak. Gillian, a researcher at Manchester University, stumbled across a newspaper cutting three years ago. It told the amazing story of the flood of school children from Guernsey who came to Stockport in the summer of 1940, sailing out of the island on 20 June only days before the German invaders arrived. More than 1,200 bewildered youngsters reached Stockport by train on a wet day.
The local newspaper, telling the story, was published on 28 June 1940, the day the Luftwaffe was bombing St Peter Port harbour, cutting off escape by sea for the rest of the war. By then, 17,000 men, women and children – nearly half the population - had left in a variety of boats, some of them used only weeks before to rescue British troops from Dunkirk.
Gillian, who lives in Whaley Bridge, was fascinated by the story: “I was a Stockport girl, and I had never heard about all these children coming here.
I couldn’t believe there was nothing written down, no plaque or anything. I just had to find out more.”
So she started digging. Of the 5,000 or so children who came to the UK – many as entire schools, including teachers – most ended up in the North West or Yorkshire.
“It took over my life”, says Gillian. From being an employee at the university, she became a mature student , using the story as the basis for her degree thesis.
Stories in local papers in Guernsey and Stockport, produced 30 replies, from people eager to pass on their memories of a powerful part of their lives.
Since then Gillian has flown to Guernsey eight times and interviewed 160 surviving evacuees.
Gillian has been recognised on the island with an Ambassador of the Year award. She has met Guernsey’s minister of culture, originally from Oldham.
This led to recognition of the evacuation with an event and a plaque ceremony at last year’s Liberation Day.
Gillian has spent much of the autumn planning a ‘We’ll Meet Again’ event at Stockport War memorial and Art Gallery on Sunday 30 October, telling the story of the evacuees’ arrival and impact on an urban community. This follows up a reunion in Stockport in 2010, the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.
If you have questions or information about the Guernsey evacuations, contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Gillian Mawson, 28b Hill Drive, Whaley Bridge SK23 7BH There is a link to http://guernseyevacuees.wordpress.com/evacuation/