Operation Pied Piper: Background information when reading Crooked Heart

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Crooked Heart

by Lissa Evans

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans X
Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2015, 288 pages

    Jul 2016, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite
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About this Book

Operation Pied Piper

This article relates to Crooked Heart

Print Review

Operation Pied Piper Poster In Crooked Heart, Noel Bostock, aged 10, is evacuated from London during World War II. The evacuations that took place in British cities at this time constitute the biggest and most concentrated mass movement of people in the country's history.

Known as Operation Pied Piper, the planned evacuation began in September 1939. Britain and France had made a commitment to defend Poland from Hitler and when German troops crossed the Polish border on September 1, 1939, a declaration of war was the inevitable response. Although exact numbers are difficult to come by, almost 3.75 million were evacuated out of towns and cities thought to be in danger from German bombers. Upwards of 1.5 million were transported in just the first four days of September 1939.

Those evacuated were mainly schoolchildren and teachers acting as their guardians; half a million mothers with young children were also evacuated. Just as Noel is in Crooked Heart, the children were piled onto trains with their luggage and handed sandwiches to eat. Some – like Noel – did not travel far from home but others travelled hundreds of miles. Logistical challenges beset the process. On arrival in some areas children were lined up against a wall or on the stage of a village hall and potential host families were allowed to take their pick. Some, like Noel, were not quickly chosen. Many people's recollections of being evacuated have been recorded. Evacuees speak of carrying their belongings and gas masks, about the bewilderment of being separated from their families, of being herded on trains and buses, of being chosen (or not), of being locked in rooms or being welcomed with open arms.

Child evacuees arriving in Devon It is not difficult to imagine the humiliation and fear many experienced. For some children evacuation became a welcome opportunity to experience country life and learn new skills but others were mistreated, chosen only for their ration books, or worse.

After the initial rapid evacuation, many children returned home but in the summer of 1940, Germany occupied France and a new wave of evacuations began. The decision to remove as many children and vulnerable people from London was fully vindicated when the Blitz began in September 1940. For 57 consecutive nights London was bombed by the Luftwaffe. In 2012 Dr. Kate Jones, a geographer at the University of Portsmouth, developed a website which graphically maps the bombing of London. As well as providing an incredible visual insight into the extent of the Blitz, there is information on every bomb site with links to photographs.

Pictures from Imperial War Museums

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Kate Braithwaite

This "beyond the book article" relates to Crooked Heart. It originally ran in September 2015 and has been updated for the July 2016 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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