Scotland

WWII evacuees: Hazel's escape to Glasgow

A sense of relief washed over Hazel Hicks when she was picked from the throng of evacuated children who had been sleeping in St Ninian's church hall in Glasgow since leaving Guernsey.

"I thought 'at last, something's happening - we're going to a home - somebody's going to care for us'," she said.

Hazel left the island where she had a "happy and very free" childhood at the age of seven, when the German Army was advancing.

Her life changed forever on that midsummer's day in 1940, when she was bundled onto a bus, boat and a train to make the long journey north.

Parents watched from the hillside as their children boarded a bus taking them to the harbour.

For many it was five years before they would see them again.

Image caption The Red Cross letters were regarded as "a lifeline" by Hazel

After a spell in Glasgow's Bridgeton area, Hazel was sent to a family in Kircudbright, an experience she said helped shape her for the rest of her life.

"It made me grow up in a lot of ways," she said.

Her only contact with home was letters sent intermittently through the Red Cross.

These were limited to 25 words and no information was given about the child's exact location.

Hazel described these letters as a "lifeline".

"We had been so long without hearing from our parents that when the letters did arrive it was an emotional time," she said.

"My headmistress would tell me when she got a message and would send them onto me. And they'd all go round the school.

"The bus driver who took me to school used to read them and weep buckets."

On 9 May 1945, Guernsey was liberated by the British forces and Hazel returned to her island life.

But she said Scotland still holds a special place in her heart: "We can never thank them enough for what they did, taking strangers into their home."

Escape to Glasgow will be broadcast on BBC1 Scotland on Sunday 14 November at 2225 GMT, or you can watch it for one week after that on the BBC iPlayer

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