‘Dear Mummy and Daddy’: Reading Wartime Letters from British Children Evacuated to Canada During the Second World War

  • Claire L. Halstead
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)


On 11 July 1940, Marie Williamson sat down in her Toronto home to write a letter which would forever change the lives of two families. Already raising two small children of her own, Marie wrote to Margaret Sharp, her cousin in England, with an offer to care for Margaret’s three sons for the duration of the war. Her letter heralded the worsening circumstances of the conflict. The fall of France in the spring of 1940 had raised fears that an invasion of Britain could be imminent. Heightened anxiety was soon transposed onto Britain’s children; it was they who were regarded as most at risk of both physical and psychological trauma, and in need of removal from harm’s way. ‘The more children we can have out of England the better we will be pleased’, Marie Williamson wrote, illustrating her determination to offer practical assistance.1 Like thousands of Canadians who put pen to paper to offer safe homes to British children, Marie promised that she, her family and her friends would ‘clothe and look after the boys just as though they were [their] own.’2


National Archive British Child Photograph Courtesy Unaccompanied Child Imperial Family 
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© Claire L. Halstead 2016

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  • Claire L. Halstead

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