Community served as home for some English children during war years

·3 min read

During the Second World War the town of Shaunavon was host to eight special guests, who were children from England who had been evacuated overseas to Canada by their families during the Battle of Britain and other Axis blitzing operations.

These kids came from all over England, with the first, John Waddington, arriving from Cambridge, England in July 1940, who stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Fred Reeves.

Shortly after in August, three more children had arrived. An excerpt from the August 28, 1940 issue of the Shaunavon Standard read, “Three children arrived in town last night to be the war guests of Mr. and Mrs. F. G. Horsey, Mrs. Horsey having gone to Regina Sunday night and returning with the children. The war guests are three sisters – Evelyne R. Gibson, aged 13, Rosemary Gibson, aged 12, and Maureen Gibson, aged 9. Their home is in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, and they arrived in Regina Friday with other war guests. Miss W. Elliott who had been holidaying at the Horsey home, accompanied Mrs. Horsey to Regina. The department is anxious to secure more applications from those having good homes to offer war guest children.”

In September the last three war guests arrived with Mrs. R. L. Fisher from a trip in Regina. Although Fisher arrived with three children, two of them would be staying with Mrs. W. Stevson for the duration of the war. These children were John Michael Ridley, Hazel Ridley, and June Ridley. John was the only one to stay with Fisher.

The war guests also got free services, including optometrical service by W. A. Cochran, dental service by Drs. Fraser and Hainer, and free tuition to Shaunavon High School. A committee was also formed to assist in the welfare of the children. Members of the committee consisted of Mrs. W. Stevenson, Mrs. MacKinnon and Mrs. Fulton.

The fact that foreigners were staying in Shaunavon was a big deal, so it was a larger deal when one would leave. In October of 1941, John Waddington, who was the first war guest to arrive, was off to Moose Jaw to stay with Mr. and Mrs. C. Moore.

“Honoring John Waddington before his departure from Shaunavon, Isabella Lehodey, Yvonne McLean, Alan Stothers and Teddie Hossie held a jolly party in the Parish Hall Wednesday evening. About twenty young people were present and dancing was the order of the evening. After the group had partaken of a delicious lunch, presentation of a useful writing portfolio was made to John by Alan Stothers on behalf of the group. John acknowledged the gift in well-chosen words. Since coming here from England a year ago, John has been a popular resident, his good sportsmanship and pleasing manner winning him many warm friendships,” read the October 1 issue of The Shaunavon Standard.

John’s parents Ernest and Dorothy Waddington wrote to the citizens of Shaunavon with a letter to the editor that read, “Sir. – Now that John Waddington has unfortunately had to leave Shaunavon, we, his parents, would like to thank all his friends there, for their kindness to our son, during his stay of over a year with Mr. and Mrs. F. Reeves. From his letters home we feel sure he had a very happy time among you, and we send all of you our very sincere thanks. Ernest and Dorothy Waddington. Churchgate House, Soham, Cambs. England.”

By 1948 all of the war guests had left Shaunavon, to make home in other cities or towns in the province or were headed back to England. Whenever any left, there was always groups of people to see them off.

The war guests were forever connected to Shaunavon, with The Standard reporting on a wedding between Evelyne Gibson, a former war guest of the Horsey’s, and Robert A. Muir in England, in 1951.

In November of 1995, The Shaunavon Standard had received a letter to the editor from Hazel Ridley, thanking the citizens of Shaunavon for their generosity and being a home away from home.

Thanks to Kathleen East and Kelly Attrell at the Grand Coteau Centre for their help in putting this story together.

Jacob Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shaunavon Standard

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