Before the Last All Clear
by Raymond Evans
Morgan James Publishing
Genre: Memoir; World War II
Publication Date: August 2008
About the Book:
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.
Raymond Evans was just six years old when he was forced to leave the comfort of his family home and take up residence at numerous “billets” (similar to foster homes) in Llanelli, England.
The story is captivating. The editing left a lot to be desired. I had to overlook a lot of basic grammatical and spelling errors in this book, which is disappointing. Due to my real-life job, I’m a bit anal about editing and spelling errors in the books I read. In addition, the story was difficult to follow at times. There were transitions in the narrative that were very confusing. For example, Ray is talking about wanting to see his father at a Christmas party that is in a few weeks. Then, without any modifier to transition to it, the next paragraph discusses Ray being at the party. Odd shifts like this in the storytelling were confusing to me. I think with a good editor, this story could be tightened up and pack a greater punch than what is currently presented.
Aside from the editing issues, I really enjoyed Ray’s story. The shipping of English children away from potential air raids is a part of WWII history that I was not at all familiar with. Ray was moved around from different billets, initially able to be with his brother, but soon separated and on his own. Some families were strict and harsh; others neglectful and abusive; and another was so wonderful that Ray didn’t want to leave once the war ended. Told from the eyes of a young boy, Before the Last All Clear is a compelling and moving story of a lesser-known period of World War II. If you can look past the editing issues, the story is one I would definitely recommend.