THE experiences of young children transported from some of England’s biggest cities to live in rural Welsh speaking Wales as evacuees is to be highlighted in a new television series. 

Eight children from London, Liverpool and Birmingham were filmed discovering what it was like to live away from their families and their homes at the beginning of the Second World War for the four part series. 

While the emotional turmoil experienced by child refugees during World War II could never be recreated Sian Lloyd, one of its presenters, says throwing the children, aged from nine to 14, into unfamiliar circumstances does give an insight into something hundreds of thousands of children experienced from 1939 through the war years. 

“I thought it was really innovative and a completely original series and concept,” says Sian of Efaciwîs: Plant y Rhyfel (Evacuees: Children of the War) which she presents with Sean Fletcher that follows the children undertaking tasks such as cooking, housework, farm work and school, all through Welsh – as the real evacuees had. 

The children lived for a week in Llanuwchllyn, near Bala, as the village had hosted evacuees during the war, and the programme not only aims to explore how the children adapted but the experiences of those who lived through it at the time. 

The National Wales: Sian LloydSian Lloyd

“In the series we hear the testimony of people who lived through the experience, who are elderly now, who look back on their memories of the time and we follow the children of today who have been through the pandemic, which is another time of crisis," says Sian. 

“It was eye-opening for the children and it has some really poignant moments that have you reaching for the tissues, or at least I was, but also some real chuckles as children just say it as it is. 

“It’s their genuine reactions and they get chance to play with the local children, hear Welsh for the first time and are also taught in Welsh and some of them haven’t been to Wales before or spent much time in the open air or the countryside.” 

None of the eight had any experience of speaking Welsh – but as with the original evacuees, all eight picked up the language as they lived and socialised with local people including 20 pupils from Ysgol OM Edwards, parents and other locals. 

READ MORE: 

Sian, who has been a familiar figure on BBC News, visited the National Library in Aberystwyth to examine papers from the time including letters along with official documents: “There were heartfelt letters evacuees had written and the documents give a sense that, although they knew it was likely, they didn’t have much time to plan and it was quite rushed. 

“The children’s experiences were completely mixed. Some had very good experiences and some didn’t want to go back home, and some had lost their families or parents.  

“Some of the children felt quite miserable and they may have been placed with families that didn’t really want them, as if you had a spare room you were expected to take in evacuees, or it could be they were with families not used to children.” 

In the S4C programme Sian also interviews her own father, John Lloyd who is in his 80s, about his memories of the evacuee children from Liverpool and Birkenhead, who came to Criccieth. 

“He was a very young child when the evacuees came and he remembers them at school though they didn’t have any home, but they mixed with them and it was nice to have that personal element which is part of a much wider story. He doesn’t remember that much about the war but does remember rationing.” 

Efaciwis: Plant y Rhyfel begins on Sunday, January 30 on S4C at 8pm and English subtitles are available.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.