LETTERS FROM AMERICA - THE GUERNSEY EVACUEE
BBC Inside Out tells the remarkable tale of how America’s First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, became ‘foster parent’ to a young North West evacuee.
We exclusively reveal the letters written by Paulette Le Mescam to the Roosevelts after they agreed to ‘foster’ her for the war years. The letters to and from the White House continued for five years.
Paulette, who is now 78 and lives on Guernsey, used to write to them every week after she was evacuated from the island to a country mansion in the heart of Cheshire.
Paulette was seven-years-old, and one of 1,200 children rescued from Guernsey in 1940, just hours before the island was occupied. It was a rescue that would lead to an extraordinary bond with one of the most powerful families in the world.
The children were sent to Stockport, where they were relocated at homes across the North West. Along with some of her school friends, Paulette was found a home at Moseley Hall, a country mansion on the outskirts of Knutsford.
Enrolled on the ‘Foster Parent Plan for War Children’ scheme, each child was allocated an American sponsor who would send them letters and parcels each month.
After being chosen to talk about the scheme on BBC radio in London, Paulette was informed that she had been adopted by a very important ‘foster parent’. At first, she did not realise the importance of their address - The White House in Washington.
Her ‘foster parent’ turned out to be Eleanor Roosevelt - America’s First Lady and wife of the then President, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Paulette sent letters to the White House about life at Moseley Hall as well as drawings and pictures and, in return, Eleanor Roosevelt told Paulette about life in the White House and sent presents of clothes, chocolate and food parcels.
She says: “I used to get lots of presents from Mrs. Roosevelt and the President - there was a lovely red dress and things like Lux soap which had a beautiful smell.”
Sadly, just one of Eleanor Roosevelt’s original letters remains in Pauline’s possession, in which she explains how impressed she is that Paulette is learning shorthand, describing it as ‘a splendid thing to know and one can almost always obtain work at it’.
However, whilst researching the story, the Inside Out team discovered that The Roosevelt Archive in America has kept copies of all the letters and drawings Paulette wrote to America’s First Lady.
The pictures include a drawing of an owl with the words ‘Why don’t you copy this wise old bird?’ written underneath - innocent words of advice from 7-year-old Paulette to Mrs. Roosevelt and her husband during one of the most turbulent times in world history.
In the programme, Paulette visits Moseley Hall for the first time in 65 years, where she is presented with the letters and pictures she sent to America’s First Lady over 70 years ago.
Paulette comments: "I don’t think until I was about 12 or 13 it really started to sink in who it was. It was nice to write and I felt a little bit important, as though somebody had done something for me.
"It will still live in my memory forever. It’s a nice story I can tell to my children and my grandchildren. And it’s unique, the story is unique."
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Letter to Eleanor Roosevelt
A letter from Paulette Le Mescam to Eleanor Roosevelt, in which she tells of money raised by the people of Knutsford for 'Salute the Soldier' Week.
Copyright of Paulette Le Mescam
Evacuee's drawing for Mrs Roosevelt
A drawing of an owl sent to the Roosevelt's by Paulette Le Mescam.
Written underneath are the words 'Why don’t you copy this wise old bird?' - innocent words of advice from 7-year-old Paulette to Mrs Roosevelt and her husband during one of the most turbulent times in world history.
Copyright of Paulette Le Mescam
Gurnsey evacuee - Paulette today
Paulette pictured speaking to BBC Inside Out North West
- Stuart Maconie
- Stuart Normand
- Andy Johnson
- Jacey Normand