Before the Last All Clear (Evans)

Before the Last All Clear 
Ray Evans, 2005
Morgan James Publishing

263 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781600373787


Summary
During World War II around three and a half million British people were evacuated away from possible air raids in the big cities in one of the largest social upheavals Great Britain has ever seen.

The Government called this ‘Operation Pied Piper’ and many of the evacuees were children. Journeys from the cities were long and tiring and the evacuees did not know where they were going. They were often dropped off in groups and gathered in a local village hall or school to be 'chosen' by the prospective foster parents. One of those children was Ray Evans whose family was transported from Liverpool to the Welsh Town of Llanelli.

In Before the Last All Clear, Evans tells a harrowing tale of leaving his mother and being forced to live with families who at best regarded him as a nuisance and, at worst, exploited and brutalised him. Evans account takes a happy turn when he is billeted to a family who make him so welcome that he is reluctant to leave them at the end of the war.

Written in a simple, direct style Before the Last All Clear depicts a world far removed from the glamour and sophistication of the twenty-first century. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio
Birth—August 29, 1933
Where—Liverpool, England, UK
Education—Secondary School
Awards—Welsh Book Council Wales Reads
Currently—lives in Virginia, USA


Born in Liverpool in 1933, Ray Evans was evacuated to the South Wales town of Llanelli at the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. He remained there until the cessation of hostilities in 1945. When he left school he served two years National Service in Egypt as a member of the British Royal Army Medical Corps, before marrying Lilian in 1956. Ray started a wholesale clothing business in 1964 and ran this enterprise very successfully along with Lilian until they retired and moved to the USA to be closer to their daughter. They lived first in New Hampshire, but now reside in the warmer climes of south east Virginia. Ray has been happily married to Lilian for 54 years: they have two children and six grandchildren. Ray now spends his time writing, blogging and golfing unless his lifetime favorite football (soccer) team Liverpool FC are playing, in which case he will be ‘glued’ to the television!

His own words:
During the writing of the book I learned a lot that I had either forgotten or was never aware of because I was so young when the events took place. It was in the course of my researching certain war time events for accuracy and inclusion in the book that I discovered just how much interest there really must be because of the myriad of websites and organizations that exist.

Before the Last All Clear began as a way to ensure the stories that had fascinated my children and now my grandchildren, would continue to be shared within our own family. Although I was reluctant at first [I felt I didn’t had the education to write a book and am well aware, I am no Shakespeare]  however it became a labor of love and grew into so much more than I ever expected it to. Many people tell me the stories are funny, sad and some say beautiful and even inspiring. I can only say they have meant much to me and had a very deep and lasting effect on the person I became in later life.

The greatest pleasure I’ve had since the book was published has been meeting people at book clubs, events and schools. I am constantly amazed at how strongly people relate to the stories and experiences that I now realize have shaped my entire life. It is very humbling to realize that through this book, they may now also affect others – hopefully in a positive way. If there is anything I learned from those early experiences, it is that you have to always look for the light at the end of the tunnel and then just put your head down and work towards it! (From the publisher.)



Book Reviews 
Some recall it as the greatest adventure of their lives. For others, being a wartime evacuee was a nightmare. These are the witty yet deeply poignant memories of a man still haunted by the cruelties he endured. During World War II, around three and a half million British children were evacuated away from possible air raids in the big cities in one of the largest social upheavals Great Britain has ever seen. One of those children was Ray Evans. This is the story of a young evacuee from Liverpool sent to live in the Welsh town of Llanelli. Separated from his mother, brothers and sisters, six-year old Ray was dispatched to a series of families who ignored, exploited and brutalised him. Pushed from pillar to post, he finally finds happiness with a family who make him so welcome that he is reluctant to leave when war ends. Set in a world of ration books, air-raid sirens and ever-present danger, this is a candid and direct account of wartime Britain as seen through the eyes of a child..
Daily Mail (UK)


A superb portrait of wartime Britain seen from a child’s perspective, and recalled in astounding and excruciating detail by a man who lived through it and tells all. Before the Last All Clear is a superb memoir, but more importantly, it is a vivid and uniquely personal morsel of history that any reader will find difficult to forget.
Book Review.com (www.bookreview.com)

 
At the age of six, Evans, along with thousands of other British children, was separated from his family, home and school and sent to the safety of the English countryside during WWII. In his memoir, the author recalls the emotions of a small child who misses his mother and family. While it may be easy for readers to become emotional when it comes to this kind of story, Evan’s touching account is indeed a tearjerker; he aptly recaptures his fear and the feeling of being lost as he made his way to his temporary home. He presents a tale of horror as he relives the memories of two homes where he stayed during the evacuation period. As a castoff evacuee, Evans was often mistreated by the families with whom he stayed, enduring what Western society today would consider child abuse. By the time the author reaches his third and final home, he loves it so much that he almost doesn’t want to leave. Evans’ illustrative writing capably paints each scene, making it easy to imagine the conditions in which he lived. In fact, it would be realistic to picture this cute young boy’s life portrayed on screen. Before the Last All Clear is a well-written account of a lovable protagonist who yearns for a sense of normalcy—all while remaining optimistic that the war will soon end and better days are ahead. A beautiful memoir of WWII as seen through the eyes of a child.
Kirkus Reviews



Discussion Questions
1. Discuss the differences between life in 1939 and how we live today. How are things easier for us today than they were back then?

2. How do you think you would feel or react to being told that your hometown was a major bombing target? Was evacuation voluntary or compulsory?

3. Imagine you are a parent – intellectually you know and understand you must allow your children to be evacuated, yet you have no idea of their destination, who they will be housed with or when they will be allowed to return. What do you think might go through your mind as you watch your children leave?

4. Describe Ray’s reaction to the selection process he goes through at the “evacuee Distribution Center” on arrival in Wales

5. Discuss the relationship between Ray and his various ‘foster parents’ at the different billets.

6. How do you think children in that time differ from children today? They certainly seem more naïve, but then so do the adults. Are we better off now or has society in general lost more than it’s gained?

7. Describe how Ray is made to feel when he has to ask for another billet, food or clothing.

8. What would you have the most trouble or difficulty with in Ray’s situation - living with strangers, going hungry or the separation from family and friends?

9. Was Ray’s a typical evacuation experience or more likely the exception? How many children were evacuated under Operation Pied Piper? Where did they get sent to?

10. How did Mrs. Williams and her family make Ray’s final years of evacuation a positive experience in the end?

11. How do you think Ray’s experiences as an evacuee shaped his personality in later life? Do you feel they helped or hurt him and if so, how?

12. What did you learn about wartime life in England and about yourself from reading this book

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