Every Which Way – the National Memorial to the Evacuation of children in Britain during WWII at the UK National Arboretum

By Jackie Daly

SET IN 150 ACRES DOTTED WITH 30,000 TREES, the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire, England makes it a unique place of discovery and contemplation. (1)

Its 330 memorials – more are constantly being added – provide a chance to honour many groups of people – military and civilian, professional and social groups and those bands of individuals simply thrown together by the circumstances they found themselves facing. (2)

On 25 July 2017 I and around three hundred others guests were honoured to be invited to the unveiling of ‘Every Which Way’ – or to give it it’s proper title, the National Memorial to the Evacuation of children in Britain during WWI – at the Arboretum.

 

A general view of the Memorial. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

A view of the figures. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

After years of fundraising the British Evacuee Association managed to raise enough funds to commission sculptor Maurice Blik PPRBS, FRSA (3) to create this distinctive sculpture.

This is what Maurice wrote in his booklet about the memorial:

‘I was on a flight from London to New York when I got chatting to the woman sitting next to me. She told me about the British Evacuees Association (BEA), (4) of which her friend was a member, and how they wanted to erect a memorial to mark their evacuation as children during WWII from their home towns and cities to the relative safety of the countryside.

I was not only captivated by this idea but also identified in many ways with the sense of bewilderment and displacement that many of these children felt at being torn from their parents and sent to live in unknown locations with strangers. It seemed as if fate had seated us together and you can imagine her surprise when I told her I was a sculptor. The rest is history as they say.

The title of the memorial was inspired by one of the members of the BEA who on seeing my initial scale model for the sculpture, exclaimed, ‘That’s it exactly – we were going every which way’.

I could not have imagined a more fitting title.

 

A close-up some of the figures – note the split luggage beside the little girl. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

With the design I hope to convey some of the anxiety and confusion felt by the child Evacuees.

This is not a straight forward line of children about to set off on a journey; hands and items of clothing are back to front and luggage is split open to symbolise families being torn apart.’

 

The Duke of Gloucester and Karen Follows, Manager of the British Evacuees Association meet some of the attendees after the unveiling ceremony. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

The memorial was unveiled by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester and was filmed by British national television.

Although the memorial depicts children it also honours all though connected in the evacuation process – teachers, billeting officers, train and coach drivers and foster parents. (5)

It is located next to the Children’s Play Area at the Arboretum.

A few of the invited guests at the memorial unveiling at the National Arboretum. Jackie is third from the right, with fellow IWM volunteer Julie Underhay, second from the right, who is also a BEA trustee. Image © Jackie Daly 2017

 

SOURCES AND FURTHER INFORMATION

(1) http://www.thenma.org.uk/

(2) http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/memorial-listing/

(3) http://www.mauriceblik.com/

(4) http://www.evacuees.org.uk/

(5) http://www.evacuees.org.uk/memorial.html

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