On their own - Britain's child migrants

Bill Nicholson – the boy evacuee

"I told my mother about a scheme to send children to Australia. She said, ‘Although it will be dangerous we won’t stand in your way. In any case you may have a better future there’."

As World War II escalated, the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) was formed to evacuate British children to the Dominions for the duration of the war.

In August 1940, 13-year-old Bill Nicholson was amongst the first party of 477 evacuees to board MV Batory for the 10-week voyage to Australia. He would spend the next four years with the Littler family in New Town, Tasmania.

Like many child evacuees who returned to devastated post-war Britain, Bill longed for his adopted homeland. In 1949 he migrated to Australia with the assistance of his wartime hosts.

porcelain figure of a young boy with a suitcase

The boy evacuee

In 1989 Royal Doulton issued a porcelain figurine of an evacuee, complete with identity label and gas mask, to commemorate a momentous episode in British wartime history – the evacuation of thousands of children to safety across Britain and its empire.

Lent by John Hare

Happy landing and happy holidays

Bill’s mother kept this newspaper clipping as confirmation that her son had arrived safely in Melbourne in October 1940. She put it in an album which also contains photographs of Bill’s trips to Launceston and Eaglehawk Neck with the Littlers, before petrol rationing brought an end to such outings.

Lent by Bill Nicholson.

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