GILLIAN WRITING BOOK ON FORGOTTEN EVACUEES

– 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.

Gillian Mawson: the story 'has taken over my life'

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.

DISLEY 1940: Evacuees just off the bus from Bury, where they were taken initially, now on their way to Disley school to register for billeting with local families. The village church, St Mary's. still flies the Guernsey flag on Liberation Day, 9 May, in a link with some vivid pages of local history.

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.

GREAT HUCKLOW in the High Peak: Boys from the Elizabeth College, Guernsey, at the Florence Nightingale Home in 1940. The younger boys were billeted there, outnumbering the villagers. A few months later, the older boys moved to Whitehall, now an outdoor pursuits centre on Long Hill outside Buxton.

If you have questions or information about the Guernsey evacuations, contact her on gillianmawson@btinternet.com  or write to Gillian Mawson, 28b Hill Drive,  Whaley Bridge SK23 7BH  There is a link to http://guernseyevacuees.wordpress.com/evacuation/