Michael Henderson has written a major article about the generous actions of two American companies who in 1940 took in children of their English companies during World War II. Their initiative was singled out as an example by The New York Times on the first of September, 1940.
It is an impressive image. 156 children sitting in rows of chairs in front of a company headquarters on the edge of war-torn London in 19401.They did not know that they were on the verge of the biggest upheaval of their lives. They were about to be evacuated to the United States and most were far too young to understand what that meant. For some it had even been portrayed as a long summer holiday. It was to be an introduction to an America hardly any knew anything about and they would not see their families again for five years. Neither they nor their parents could know that, nor that seventy years on many of them and their children and grandchildren would still be close friends to American families they were about to encounter.
That image underlines for me how dire the situation must have seemed for parents to send their children overseas. Less than two months later another group of 77 children out of a party of 90 on a government scheme as well as about ten more who were going privately were blown to bits by a torpedo, drowned or frozen to death in lifeboats in the cold waters of the Atlantic. If the news of the sinking of the City of Benares had come that many weeks earlier perhaps parents would have been more hesitant; and this story of generous American hospitality might not have been written. At the outset few parents may have grasped quite how dangerous was the Atlantic crossing on which we were embarking that summer. I say “we” because my brother and I were also evacuated as part of a smaller group.
To read the whole story be in touch with the publisher. The article is in The International Journal of War Child Studies Volume 1, no 10.