British Journal of Canadian Studies

‘Dangers behind, pleasures ahead': British-Canadian identity and the evacuation of British children to Canada during the Second World War

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2014), 27, (2), 163–180.

Abstract

Between 1939 and 1940, over six thousand British child evacuees were shipped across the dangerous Atlantic seas to the safe shores of Canada. Examining three Toronto-based organisations, the University of Toronto's Women's War Service Committee, the St George's Society of Toronto and Havergal College, illustrates the British-Canadian connections that inspired Canadians to open their homes to small strangers for ‘the duration’. Wartime letters from six-year-old evacuee Julie Kemp and those sent between her natural mother and foster mother reflect the constant negotiations and intricacies of this prolonged separation between child and family and country. Post-war oral interviews with former evacuees point towards the complexities of their reintegration back into British society and the lasting effects of their evacuation. The children's wartime migration drew upon pre-war British and wartime Canadian identity. Upon the evacuees' return home, this combined with a post-war British identity to produce an amalgamated British-Canadian identity.

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Author details

Halstead, Claire