Feature: Lizzie Guilfoyle
A NEW EXHIBITION, entitled The Children's War,
is currently running at London's Imperial War Museum. As well
as marking the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day, the exhibition
gives survivors, now senior citizens, the opportunity to share
their experiences with younger generations.
These days, it's difficult to imagine life immediately before
and during the war. On September 1, 1939, two days before war
was declared, the evacuation of children began. Over a million
left the city and went to live with foster parents in country
areas as far away as Cornwall and Scotland.
Some, approximately 16,000, went as far afield as North America,
New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Others stayed and endured nightly bombing raids by the German
air force. During the Blitz, London was attacked on 57 successive
nights but other cities and ports also suffered heavy raids.
Casualty statistics were appalling
- 7,736 children killed and 7,622 seriously wounded. A baby, just
eleven hours old, was the youngest victim. Many who survived were
orphaned or lost brothers and sisters.
And in 1944, conventional bombs were replaced by the VI flying
bomb and the V2 rocket, creating even more fear and devastation.
But even war had its brighter side. Some children actually enjoyed
their time in the country, as their paintings clearly show. And
homemade clothes and toys were a part of everyday lifel. I know
of at least one bear - knitted with khaki wool and sporting black
shoe-button eyes - who survived and is 'alive' and well today.
Now, 60 years later, visitors can find out more about evacuation,
the threat of gas attacks, air raid precautions, rationing, school
and work, pastimes and entertainment and VE Day celebrations.
They can also go inside an Anderson shelter, walk through a recreation
of a wartime house and view sections of a 'prefab' home.
The Children's War is part of a year-long programme
of commemorative events called 'Their past, your future.'
Admission to the exhibition, which is suitable for children,