In this engaging autobiographical account, veteran journalist and broadcaster Bob Trevor recalls his childhood experiences in war-torn London during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz and as an evacuee, first in rural Southern England and later in Liverpool.
The result is as powerful an evocation of civilian life in wartime Britain as you are ever likely to read. A compelling and at times deeply moving portrayal of family life, childhood, friendship and collective fortitude in the face of adversity.
Just five years old when war is declared in 1939, Bob and his gang of childhood friends are soon watching in awe as the dogfights of Battle of Britain take place in the skies above their local streets in suburban Thornton Heath, although their initial excitement gives way to trepidation as the nightly bombing raids of the Blitz begin.
With London under siege, Bob, his mother and baby sister are evacuated to Pangbourne in rural Berkshire, where for the next two years they will share a single room in a dilapidated old Rectory, struggling to survive on their meagre wartime rations.
To add to his hardships, Bob is sent to the local village school, where he and a few fellow evacuees face relentless bullying by local children who resent intruders on their turf. The daily playground battles of this plucky band of uprooted city kids mirrors the hostilities taking place in the wider world, where Allied forces face a similarly intractable enemy.
Just as all seems lost, a unit of the Royal Canadian Engineers is stationed nearby and Bob is befriended by a trio of native Canadian soldiers. Far from home and victims of prejudice themselves, these ‘Red Indian’ servicemen empathise with the displaced city kids and tutor them in the art of self-defence.
It is a valuable education that will help our young hero overcome the challenges that lie in store for him in Liverpool and back home in London before VE Day finally heralds a longed-for return to normal life.