16 Jan 2013
Our January presentation saw returning speaker Trevor Cox join us on a cold, cold night for his latest talk Seavacs - Evacuations by Sea in WW2” - latest may not be quite the correct terminology, for Trevor had completed the basis of his research some 20 years previously, but only recently transferred his pictures from slides to enable a computer presentation.
The evacuation of children actually commenced in 1939. Following the declaration of war many children from London were taken, some on paddle-steamers round to the East Coast. Others, numbering approx 5000 were evacuated from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.
In 1940 there was an opportunity for children to be evacuated to South Africa, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The Government made provision for a few thousand places, yet there were 250,000 applicants who required vetting for health and suitability, only about 3000 would be successful. Churchill had originally looked favourably on the idea, but found the uptake unpatriotic and distanced himself as plans took shape.
The Children's Overseas Reception Board was formed under Geoffrey Shakespeare. Trevor took us through the various ships involved and covered in detail the sinking of the City of Benares, torpedoed with huge losses. He told the story of one lifeboat carrying 46 which was spotted 8 days after the sinking by a Sunderland on escort duties, leading to the rescue of all on board. The scheme was then officially stopped and many of the ships went on to serve as troopships.
Packed with pictures, detail of life on board and with eyewitness accounts from some evacuees interviewed when he first gave the talk years ago, Trevor is surely an authority on the subject.
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