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British Children's Fiction in the Second World War$

Owen Dudley Edwards

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780748616510

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748616510.001.0001

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Evacuees and Gurus

Evacuees and Gurus

Chapter:
(p.128) (p.129) 3 Evacuees and Gurus
Source:
British Children's Fiction in the Second World War
Author(s):

Owen Dudley Edwards

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748616510.003.0003

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter looks at evacuees and gurus during the war, and presents the effects of reading on evacuees, most of whom learnt to read using comics. It then identifies a propaganda point that was discovered during the war: children are more convincing as martyrs than as fighters. The chapter also shows that reading prevented children from slipping into theft and vagrancy, and even helped them pass the time while on their way to America and other countries. The latter half of the chapter focuses on the role of gurus in children's fiction, which is embodied in characters such as Aslan in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Keywords:   evacuees, gurus, effects of reading, propaganda point, vagrancy

Evacuees and Gurus

Figure 3 Evacuees escaping from evacuation (Norman Dale, Secret Service) – see pp. 152, 358.

‘Our schoolgirls (i.e. evacuees) have arrived …’.… ‘I have said that the children are “nice”, and so they are. But modern children are poor creatures. They keep coming to Maureen and asking, “What shall we do now?” …’

This book is about four children … They all had to go away from London suddenly because of Air Raids, and because Father, who was in the Army, had gone off to the War and Mother was doing some kind of war work. They were sent to stay with a kind of relation of Mother’s who was a very old Professor who lived all by himself in the country.’

C. S. Lewis to his brother Warren, 2 and 18 September 1939, and draft beginning of story (later The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) late September 1939[?]

Nobody thought that war, when it came, would first appear as a gigantic, prolonged, nation-wide children’s party. But that is exactly what ‘evacuation’ meant, to a large part of the country, those first few months.

The author of this book found himself very suddenly host to seven small guests from Birkenhead. These are some of the stories he told them.

Richard Hughes, Preface to Don’t Blame Me! and Other Stories (1940)

  • Children, go where I send ye!
  • How shall I send ye?

Old Negro carol1

Grown-ups might tell children (in prefaces, spoken or written) that it was like a children’s party, especially those grown-ups like Richard Hughes whose marriage was put under strain by the arrival of evacuees, and who wanted to conceal the strains from their visitors, their own children, their spouses and themselves.2 It is doubtful if Richard Hughes or anyone else would use such language about the second and third waves of evacuees, which respectively began with (p.130) the Battle of Britain in summer 1940 and with the rocket-bombs in 1944. Evelyn Waugh, with irritating perception, opened his impressionistic portrait of Britain’s first ten months of the Second World War with a quotation from a Chinese sage: ‘A man getting drunk at a farewell party should strike a musical tone, in order to strengthen his spirit … and a drunk military man should order gallons and put out more flags …’. But if it was still possible to pretend it was a party in September 1939, what games were the children to play? And when games grew jaded, Hughes might tell them stories, or Lewis begin to write stories about them, or Waugh collect material to defame them. In general, the children began their Aeneids with comics, if they could read, or Blytons, or Cromptons, or even instalments of War Illustrated.3

If they were allowed. The exile from London, Christopher Leach, recalled what amounted to enslavement at 13 as a child labourer, the wages having to be given to his hostess with half a crown (£0.125) in exchange, and ‘a selection of boys’ magazines’ sent by his mother ‘destroyed as not being suitable’, with subsequent similar gifts meeting the same fate. After protest, Miss Hattersley (‘Sister Hattersley’ to her fellow-votaries of ‘an obscure sect’) told him that as to his ‘books. I cannot allow such rubbish in my house – I have the others to consider. All you have to do is to ask your mother not to send them. No, don’t interrupt. You are in my house, and you are my responsibility.’ But Jim Walker of Belfast was sent to ‘the delightful little village of Bushmills, with a good view of the Old Bush distillery, which did not mean as much to me then (11 years old) as it does now … My best friend’s father was the newsagent, so I got to read all the comics, Hotspur etc., before they went on sale.’ Village children and ‘vacees’ mixed ‘really well’; and, even when they robbed an orchard and were spotted, the owner turned out to be the Presbyterian minister to whom they were sent for Sunday school, after which ‘we only had to go up to his door to get an apple or two’. This is idyllic, and is highly credible as well as creditable to Bushmills. The community sympathy for the ‘wee waifs’ rings true. And so does the processing of the evacuees ‘at a church hall outside Portrush’. The Protestant people were guarding their own. Their support of the UK in the war (unlike neutral Roman Catholic Eire), the knowledge of the IRA alliance with Hitler (and the suspicion that Northern Ireland Catholics supported it), the fears of cultural obliteration in the event of Irish unity, the wilder horror-stories of the Inquisition and the Catholic massacres of Protestants in 1641, were mortar solidifying the Protestant house. Protestant Northern Ireland could not afford (p.131) the luxury of social conflict, whatever might happen in Britain.4

The comics taught evacuees to read, dependent on them as they became with the loss of their city life, friends and family. B. S. Johnson remembered the afternoon when

I read my first story. It was in one of that kind of comics which contains both picture-strips with speech-balloons as well as stories in words with a title illustration, and I read it out of boredom, in desperation almost, after exhausting all that the picture-strips had to give me. It was a spy story with a boy hero who sent messages across the Channel by means of a petrol-driven and radio-controlled model aeroplane: a highly improbable story, I see now, but that afternoon I read it over and over several times, with infinite pleasure, delighting that now I could read stories.

This was probably the Dandy or the Beano, which in their early lives were divided between text and strip as described, with several stories, each of about 3,500 close-printed words. When the two comics went over to strips alone, they evidently deprived their child audiences of a valuable step in education (an argument which, to do the Thomsons justice, would probably have had considerable weight with them – but it does not seem to have been made).5 Admittedly, some kingdoms opened by reading were more inaccessible for imitation than others, even when magic a.k.a. science was not invoked. Bob Holman contrasted the freedom taken by Crompton’s William and his friends with his own still parentally-controlled environment:6

They were, of course, not supposed to go out during the black-out, but each parent was ready enough to suppose that his particular son was safe in the house of another parent, and so the Outlaws roamed the countryside unhindered in its thrilling new unlighted condition. They formed bands and tracked each other down. They occasionally leapt out from behind trees to terrify nervous pedestrians, they pushed each other into ditches, they narrowly missed being run over several times a night and had given heart attacks to innumerable motorists.

‘I could not understand’, Holman recalled, ‘how William’s parents had let him out during the black-out. But I could not go out and often took comfort in listening to the radio.’ The answer is that Holman was thinking of autumn 1944; Crompton was writing in autumn (p.132) 1939. Experiment became convention, and rules inadequately enforced from their very novelty became second nature in due time. The Magnet had shown how, even within boarding-school walls, a similar early freedom could be exploited by the schoolboys of Greyfriars as late as 24 February 1940. But the blackout began to claim its accidental victims, who would ultimately include the second editor of the Magnet, Herbert Alan Hinton, killed on New Year’s Day 1945.7 The Magnet itself had died just before Dunkirk, which had given an entirely new meaning to ‘evacuees’. Had it survived, Richards could hardly have avoided the inclusion of Greyfriars men among the rescuers: his sailor lad, Tom Redwing, would for once have taken the lead in law-breaking, defying any school prohibitions as he embarked for Dunkirk with his father. Redwing’s beloved lawless Smithy would have gone with his friend, and it is hard to see the Famous Five staying out of it. Richards’s erstwhile stablemate W. E. Johns had seen the point, and, when asked in 1942 to try his hand at commando stories, began with just such a fugitive schoolboy, Nigel Peters, not as crew for his father but seeking to rescue him from Dunkirk (Redwing’s loss and recovery of his father in the First World War had been crucial to his arrival and survival at Greyfriars). Westerman, with or without some justification in reality, had sent his fictional Sea Scouts into action from his old Portsmouth/Poole haunts, thinly disguised as ‘Easthaven’, but also brought them back, slightly damaged but good for further usage. Johns marooned Nigel Peters ‘on a stricken battlefield with a mob of victorious Nazis’, an ugly likelihood for schoolboy rescuers, as indeed is his reaction: ‘terror took him by the throat and he ran as he had never run before, not even on the last sports day, when Smith minor had beaten him by a yard in the junior sprint’.8

All this might be determinedly realistic (above all in Smith minor defeating his 14-year-old rival), but it is in fact flashback after an introductory tableau enshrining as dizzy a schoolboy fantasy as the Rover or Adventure at its most wild-eyed could supply. Two commandos operating on a beach near Caen suddenly find themselves confronted by a boy, now aged 16, who informs them that their leader has just walked into a Nazi trap:

‘I’ll give it to you straight. I’m not going to stand here talking any longer – it’s too dangerous. There’s ten thousand francs waiting for the man who turns me in to the Germans. That’s how badly they want me.’

‘For doing what?’ asked Copper in a dazed voice.

(p.133) ‘Pulling up railway lines, cutting telephone wires, setting fire to dumps – and that sort of thing’ was the calm rejoinder. ‘It’s my guess that you’re Gimlet King’s outfit. Oh yes, we know all about Gimlet – so do the Nazis. They’ve got you all taped through their spies, even to your names. You’ve led them a fine old dance up and down the coast, but if ever they get hold of you they’ll skin you alive. With my own ears I heard Generaloberst Gunther – he’s in charge in this area – promise to drown every Kitten [commando under King] that fell into his hands. That was after you bumped off his garrison in the Luvelle lighthouse. If daylight finds you here you won’t have a hope.’

‘Cub’ Peters had become one of a group of teenage French resistance boys, developed from a clutch of ‘waifs and strays’ from ruined Dunkirk or other gutted homes now hiding in the woods:

At first they had lived like animals, content to keep out of sight, but as time went on some sort of order had emerged. Louis, who had the instinct of a town rat for danger, by reason of his age became the leader; and food forays, from being haphazard affairs, became cunningly organized pillaging expeditions on the Nazi storehouses. From this, growing bolder, they came to inflicting damage on enemy property whenever and wherever it could be found. Louis had been an apprentice motor mechanic, and it was but a short step from making military vehicles unserviceable to jamming the breechblocks of cannon.

By the end of a year the gang had become a small, well-organized, highly mobile force, intensely loyal, with its spies in every town and village, and its headquarters deep in the Forest of Caen. Lacking imagination, apparently it never occurred to the Nazis that the dirty little ragamuffins who hung about their camps under the pretence of looking for scraps, but really to listen to their conversations, could be the thorns in their sides.

Turning the boy, obvious material for evacuation, into a failed evacuator of the British, and then into a successful irritant to hasten evacuation of the Germans, initially displaced the agenda for commando propaganda in King of the Commandos: on first appearance, indeed, the commandos are made almost as ludicrous as the Nazis in face of the apparently invincible infant. It doesn’t last: chapter 5 has Gimlet and his men rescuing Louis from the Nazis who are about to flog him:9

(p.134) … another body of troops, six … By their side, a little apart, marched a sergeant, carrying at the slope a short-handled whip, the several tails of which hung far down his back. In the centre of this imposing procession, looking singularly out of place, a slim youth, his hands in his pockets, walked with jaunty step and defiant air. As the party marched across the square towards the scaffolding the youth began to sing, and the song he sang was the Marseillaise.

Stillschweigen!’ roared the sergeant.

The boy continued to sing. Indeed, he sang with greater enthusiasm, whereupon the sergeant broke into the ranks and struck him across the mouth. With blood running down his chin the boy continued to sing. He sang while his shirt was ripped off, and he was tied, spreadeagled, to the tripod.

This recognised one propaganda point: children are more convincing as martyrs than as fighters, especially when the author mingles vibrations of the Crucifixion of Christ, the Children’s Crusade and the film Casablanca (1942). King of the Commandos, published in October (1943), was perfectly timed for its audience to thrill reminiscently to the use of the Marseillaise in Casablanca as a symbol of Resistance revived despite quiescent appearances. Johns’s affectionate heart no less than his judicious head wanted to insist as passionately as possible on the survival and integrity of French resistance, as much as on the success and continuity of British commando raids. The British might seem to have run from Dunkirk, as Nigel Peters does, but they regroup for devastating results with their invincible French allies, all the more effective because the Nazis despise them. However much Johns might admire Churchill, Louis on his cross silences Churchill’s complaints about the Cross of Lorraine. Johns took every opportunity to salute the Free French, which to the ordinary reader meant Charles de Gaulle. Johns’s ideas on boy guerrillas may have been wishful thinking for France: did he realise, as the Rover did, that they had real-life counterparts in Britain? Children who should have been evacuated were running loose, sometimes at much younger ages than young Peters at Dunkirk. Houses were bombed, and frightened children ran away from them; fathers were at war or otherwise absent from home; mothers disappeared, possibly killed in bomb raids. Waugh may only have produced a cruel absurdist caricature when he depicted in the Connolly children his most memorable characters and incidents in Put Out More Flags, but his account of their (p.135) ‘Auntie’ was no doubt true of several former guardians of the millions of evacuees:10

To this woman, it seemed, the war had come as a God-given release. She had taken her dependants to the railway station, propelled them into the crowd of milling adolescence, and hastily covered her tracks by decamping from home.

Reading may have restrained many children from theft or vagrancy, but even those who could read found fewer and fewer means. Comics shrank in size, the twenty-eight pages of the Beano’s first number (30 July 1938) being reduced to eight by 1940. Libraries were bombed, and waste-paper campaigns put paid to most chances of second-hand acquisition of books or magazines. Boys’ underground swapping met more active discouragement, as fears of disease competed with urge for paper salvage. If supervision was much more uncertain, it gave a field day to the busybody, who in default of any more rational guardian was given a free hand, and the comic wearily tolerated by parents became a natural target for the snobbish instincts of new guardians. Was the child free from hair-lice? did it wash the back of its neck? was it free from habits such as nose-picking? were no other faults visible? then to radiate visible virtue confiscate its comic!

Of course, if the child’s evacuation meant a long journey, the comic was less likely to win adult reproof, and children bound for America or Australia might be given several: Colin Ryder Richardson remembers the Beano, the Dandy, the Mickey Mouse and Film Fun, one of which he was reading on the City of Benares taking him to Canada when a torpedo from a submarine struck the port side. Ninety children were on the doomed ship, of whom thirteen survived. Colin and the comics were in his bunk on the starboard side. ‘I knew immediately what had happened. I could smell the cordite.’ The Hungarian appointed to guard him, Laszlo Raskai, got Colin aboard a lifeboat swinging violently in the gale while ‘the liner rolled in the heavy seas’. The boat got clear; Raskai stayed helping others and went down with the ship. The boat, once at sea level, ‘filled with water but stayed afloat because of buoyancy air tanks’, and got away from the City of Benares with great difficulty as all its oars and sails floated away. The ship sank in half an hour; the full moon and the ship’s emergency generators made everything visible. Colin, aged 11, was sitting beside an elderly nurse, whom he desperately tried to keep alive, holding her head ‘above the waves using my body as (p.136) support under her whilst still clinging to the seat’ as the seas rolled outside and inside the boat. Others heard the boy doing all in his power to keep the nurse in good heart, talking, comforting, encouraging. ‘Eventually the old lady died in my arms, but by that time I had no strength to move to let her go because of my stiffness and the cold.’ Thirty died in the boat that night, and Colin had to help get the bodies out and make them float away lest they capsize the boat. ‘We were all covered in oil.’ After twenty hours, when the equinoctial gale quietened, they were picked up by the HMS Hurricane; another lifeboat whose crew included six boys had to wait eight days. Colin’s gallantry and good spirits made him the mascot or symbol of the will to survive, to his fellow-survivors in the boat. He was the boy hero who led his mates in the fight for survival. Convention expected him to show the stiff upper lip, and he showed it. Internally, he wanted to cry, and knew he must not. The result, as he saw it, was that after return to Britain he ‘became shy, sensitive, stoic, basically a depressed loner’. Meanwhile, the Beano had its next issue, on 21 September 1940 (the City of Benares sank on the 17th): Lord Snooty’s magician-like Professor magnified germs to enormity to be dropped on Germany, leading Hitler to write in desperation to Snooty: ‘I have had three doses of measles already and mine moustache is coming out in purple spots’. No doubt it gave smiles to many amid the Battle of Britain above and the bombs below. But Colin’s days of comics were over. ‘My sea experiences made me feel that they were shallow, unimportant, rather than humorous.’ The child had survived. His childhood had not. But he never lost his urgency to help others survive. Fifty years later he developed cancer, and developed in reply psychological resources to aid medical treatment, resulting in an exhilarating, shrewd, sensible book, Mind Over Cancer (1995). Above all else, children’s literature in the Second World War had developed in children the yearning to be heroes: the boy who was a hero wished he had never had to be one – but he remained one, vanquishing his internal anguish which clung to him so long.11

The few evacuee stories which featured sea adventure naturally suffer when Colin Ryder Richardson’s war becomes a yardstick. In War is Declared, Percy Woodcock was desperately fantasising hairs-breadth escapes from torpedoed vessels, with which (in all probability) he had once tried to convince himself and his wife that their son had managed to survive. The relative ease with which its young heroes Pat (evidently his chosen variant for his lost Sam) and Bruce cope with two successive shipwrecks, and two lifeboat voyages (one holding only the two of them), may seem thin when we think of the (p.137) City of Benares survivors, but Woodcock compels compassion by what we know was rooted in his mind whatever his literary exorcisms: Lieutenant Samuel Woodcock gone down (or blown up) in HMS Barham, the great battleship, a day’s voyage from Alexandria. Isobel Shead, the Australian writer, began They Sailed by Night with a couple of very realistic family discoveries of their bombed-out homes, so that torpedoing in the Indian Ocean, life-savings and rescue after twenty-four hours inevitably seemed routine. The children make rescues but do not assume control, certainly not to Colin Ryder Richardson’s extent, since a boy’s mental rescue of the dying and physical removal of corpses was deemed surplus to child reader requirements. It is initially set between the sinking of the City of Benares and the stoppage of government-directed emigration, which does allow mention of real deaths:12

‘Only last week you said you wouldn’t risk sending me across the sea – what about all those children that were torpedoed on the way to Canada by a U-boat?’ he eyed her anxiously. ‘That’s why the Government says they’re going to stop … And you said …’

‘Never mind what I said’, she interrupted him. ‘That was last week. I’ve changed my mind. Last week we didn’t think the Jerries would be able to get through our defences to bomb London. But they have. Hundreds killed last Saturday night in the East End, and thousands injured.’ She stopped and drew a deep breath. ‘D’you think I can go on with raids every night and people being killed all round us, and not try to get you out of it?’

On the other hand, P. L. Travers, a.k.a. Helen Lyndon Goff, had no torpedoes in her novel of child evacuees crossing the Atlantic in August 1940, I Go by Sea, I Go by Land (1941), for all her Australian origin. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, needed little training in the use of English voices, and the narrative is supposedly the diary of Sabrina Lind (aged 11¼). The scribe’s cold eye sees much: a bomb-dodger’s belated regret at her own decision to emigrate meets the purser’s refusal to return to port with the pilot, ‘And the lady went away with weeping and nashing [sic] of teeth’. A lower-class evacuee ‘has black hair and a very rosie face and never says H if she can help it’ – but, deciding to like her, Sabrina asks ‘why should you bother with Hs anyway?’ and is moved at hearing how her new (somewhat token) friend’s father was an engine-driver killed at his work.

The isolation of the evacuee might induce reading, if it could be done. Hostile environment drew evacuees closer to the friendship of (p.138) books, sometimes with effective precaution against adult realisation that reading was happening in the bedroom during the hours under adult curfew. With stockings to be darned, or other routine work, a kindly father might read stories that girls – or, more precisely, boys – might like. Mr Reeves, coping with ten children on their farm who had never seen cows milked, read them what would have been his own remembered favourites, such as W. H. G. Kingston’s Peter the Whaler. Wales had been an early choice for many parents – even Colin Ryder Richardson found himself near Abergavenny before Canada was made his destination – and children who did not know Welsh found themselves (in Welsh-language classes) with extra leisure for reading (in English). But storytelling, without the cold constriction of print, must have been a resource for many guardians of evacuees, temporary and permanent, and it was natural for Richard Hughes to fight the loneliness of the charges now in his Snowdon home when as billet-officer he had been unable to place them in other addresses. Llanfrothen in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales on the borders of Carnarvon and Merioneth, awesome in giant crags and pure streams, daunted the hearts and revived the fears of the little ones left to the billet-officer while 100 of their Birkenhead companions had been chosen, as war began. Hughes was English-born, but convinced of his own Welshness by descent from an Ancient British chieftain (duly confirmed by the College of Heralds), although his ancestors’ last known Welsh residence had been in Tudor times. He was an author of genius, as his extraordinary High Wind in Jamaica (1929) had shown. Among its other successes was its ability to bring children to thinking life in a story for adults: one child kills, and another is killed, in its course; and, if it has real pirates, they are left little romanticism outside their own delusions. By 1939, he had far more practical experience of children, having three of his own (of whom the three-year-old furiously resented the evacuees and tried to scare them away by stampeding black heifers at them). At the end of the day, a circle was formed round the fire by children and bard (the Welsh might deny his Welshness, but who were children and Birkenhead babes to object?), and each would ‘choose objects to go in the story, thinking very carefully about what we wanted … as soon as he had gone right round the circle he had to begin’. Hughes’s daughter Penelope continued:13

An evacuee once asked for a chamberpot in the story, with great daring for those days. Out of that grew the story of the forlorn ill-treated wooden doll, who ran away one night downriver, using a (p.139) china pot as a boat. … The moment in the story when the river carrying the pot reached the open sea, and little waves began to break into it until finally it was so full that it sank, held us riveted.

The story went on with the wooden doll finding she could swim. A merchild met her and befriended her, and the two of them later made their way back up the river to the house from which the doll had run away. After a while the distressed merparents came in search of their lost child. The stormy night, with a merman and huge walruses flopping through the orchard, while rain lashed the windows of the house, was not the expected stuff of bedtime stories. Much later, when I was grown up, I discovered there was another purpose to my father’s watery story: that having an orgy of wetness could break the evacuee’s bedwetting – and it did. In the book, at the publisher’s request, the pot was changed to a china pudding-bowl.

Penelope Hughes tells us her father would have forgotten the stories next day, but that the children were able to recall them for him months later (adults inhibited him, and if any were present ‘the stories were never so good’). And the following year he published them as Don’t Blame Me! and Other Stories, the pusillanimous publisher being Chatto & Windus. They are masterpieces in their own right, but it is possible to see the intention to fight the evacuees’ fears with a logic of civil nonsense and realistic magic bereft of any shade of patronising. A story called ‘Home’ tells of a King and Queen who learn from an enchantment that they will never return to their palace in ‘their country of dark forests and steep rocks’ but are given the opportunity of entering another land ‘of green fields and wide, winding rivers, with blue sky, and white roads, and yellow corn-stacks’, and before they do so they leave their royal robes on their horses and don farmers’ clothes and advance on foot and finally come to a little farm whose dog greets them and14

There were three little children sitting on the floor in front of the fire, toasting their bare toes; but as the King and Queen came in they jumped up and ran to them.

‘Oh, Daddy!’ they said. ‘Oh, Mummy! How glad we are you are back!’

The Queen sat down in a big armchair and took one of them on her knee.

(p.140) ‘Yes, my dears’, she said, ‘and we are glad to be back too.’

But at the same time she knew for certain she had never seen them before; and she had not the slightest idea of their names.

The beauty of that is its silent likening of the evacuees’ condition in a strange country with three strange children in a family circle claiming their allegiance to that of a King and Queen: if the King and Queen feel at a loss and unable to work out the identities of the children in their new family, why should small evacuees feel embarrassed at being in a similar situation? Hughes went into the Admiralty for the rest of the war, and helped write its history, but what he did in his Welsh farm to console the seven little girls from Birkenhead he may have thought the best war work of all. As he told the American Academy of Arts and Letters thirty years later:15

An apparently intelligent man tells you, ‘No, I never read novels’. He plumes himself on his serious-mindedness: yet isn’t this at the very least confessing unwillingness to face facts about his fellow-men – and himself? … there is one unpalatable fact which Fiction might make him apprehend: the fact that other people are not ‘things’ but ‘persons’….

Maybe that is the supreme lesson he is refusing to learn; and the failure to learn it can prove disastrous. For the absolute solipsist the asylum doors gape. Even the gates of hell: one vast failure to learn it built the gas-ovens. The archetypal non-reader of Fiction was Hitler.

Unhappily for evacuees at the time and since, Fiction has chiefly enshrined them as Waugh victims. Put Out More Flags deserves inclusion as children’s literature in that it shows the mind of Evelyn Waugh at its most masterfully childish, and the three Connolly children – sex-mad, destructive, imbecilic – as anti-social as their creator. Basil Seal’s exploitation of evacuee-billeting to blackmail money from reluctant hosts indicates the possible darker side of the work in other hands than Hughes’s. It was an area where corruption might have flourished, and if it had not done so before, it may have burgeoned after a judicious reading of Put Out More Flags. The book is evilly perceptive as to evacuee potential in assessing rural society:16

‘he’s your boy, isn’t he?’ she said, turning to Barbara.

‘He’s my brother, Doris.’

(p.141) ‘Ah’, she said, her pig eyes dark with the wisdom of the slums, ‘but you fancy him, don’t you? I saw.’

Details such as that keep the book off the juvenile list, but Waugh was a ready stage for the enterprising child reader in quest of agreeable emancipation. Elsewhere, his childishness took the form of a petulant patriotism, alternating with an even more petulant Popery. As a Roman Catholic, I take pleasure in contrasting his charity with that of the Anglo-Catholic C. S. Lewis, whose welcome to evacuees from the beginning of the war impressively repaid him in the fullness of time.

One of them opened a wardrobe. The child who did that, Lucy, was not of course a real child, but she owed her existence and its consequence, the Narnia chronicles, to Lewis’s hospitality, perhaps even from his desire to develop children’s imagination. Up to then, he had sought an adult audience, or as near it as university students may get. Dealing with evacuees trained him to envisage the children for whom he was writing, and the children of whom he would write.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) got under way without the Lion: Aslan, Lewis’s Christ-figure, ‘came bounding into’ the book when it was apparently well advanced, without prior warning to Lewis. Hence he had already conceived Narnia as Lucy first saw it, a winter-bound kingdom, a police state, a totalitarian terror-kept rule. The obvious origin for the White Witch is Hitler, the one being whom Lewis was prepared to state was in Hell, Antichrist much as the Witch is anti-Aslan. Aslan’s arrival in the story lightens the grim opening: Lewis would seem originally to have cast Witch-ruled Narnia on lines parallel to Hitler’s Europe – the host required by law to betray his guest, the removal of dissidents to a condition neither alive nor dead, the discovery of treachery in close kindred. The evacuee children who first prompted the story remain in the opening, whose first words were ultimately ‘Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. They were sent to the house of an old Professor …’. The war background vanishes, and the war, unmentioned again, is definitely over in later books. But, in the first book, the evacuee status in our world seems related to the children’s alien status in the Witch’s Narnia. Lewis had little to learn about the literature of the terror state:17

(p.142) Lucy suddenly said: ‘I say – where’s Edmund?’

There was a dreadful pause, and then everybody began asking ‘Who saw him last? How long has he been missing? Is he outside?’ and then all rushed to the door and looked out. …

‘What on earth are we to do, Mr Beaver?’ said Peter.

‘Do?’ said Mr Beaver who was already putting on his snow boots, ‘do? We must be off at once. We haven’t a moment to spare!’

‘We’d better divide into four search parties’, said Peter, ‘and all go in different directions. Whoever finds him must come back here at once and –’

‘Search parties, Son of Adam?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘what for?’

‘Why, to look for Edmund, of course!’

‘There is no point in looking for him’, said Mr Beaver.

‘What do you mean?’ said Susan. ‘He can’t be far away yet. And we’ve got to find him. What do you mean when you say there’s no use looking for him?’

‘The reason there’s no use looking’, said Mr Beaver, ‘is that we know already where he’s gone!’ Everyone stared in amazement. ‘Don’t you understand?’ said Mr Beaver. ‘He’s gone to her, to the White Witch. He has betrayed us all.’

‘Oh surely – oh, really!’ said Susan, ‘he can’t have done that.’

‘Can’t he?’ said Mr Beaver looking very hard at the three children, and everything they wanted to say died on their lips for each felt suddenly quite certain inside that this was exactly what Edmund had done.

It is perhaps the most frightening moment in children’s war literature.

If the evacuees enabled Lewis to bring children’s literature to the sublime, he had given them too secure a life to confront social conflict. It was Enid Blyton who faced that, and its resolution, and she did so by diagnosis of a division of which few English writers were aware: Scots versus English. Scottish nationalism was not very visible to English eyes during the Second World War, making Robert MacIntyre’s by-election victory at Motherwell in April 1945 a genuine sensation. Orwell, moving away from his pre-war Scotophobia, made informed comment in his ‘Notes on Nationalism’ just after it, distinguishing Scottish nationalism from Anglophobia. In this perception, Blyton preceded him in The Adventurous Four when the Nazis maroon the children:18

(p.143) Tom was glad to see that neither Jill nor Mary cried. Good! That would show the enemy how brave British [in their case, English] children could be! …

Andy shook his fist at the disappearing ship, with the small boat bobbing behind it.

‘You think you can beat a Scots boy, but you can’t’, he cried. ‘I’ll beat you yet! You and your submarines!’

(Blyton did not aspire to classic status, more especially once she went into high production and her style glutinised; but she had learned her business from the classics and their votaries, and this has a breath of the spirit of the captive Jim Hawkins’s defiance of the pirates in Treasure Island.) The English bourgeois children have already made friends with the older but scarcely literate Scots (Caithness?) fisher-boy by the time The Adventurous Four opens. As Mary Pollock, writing approximately at the same date, Blyton explored group conflict in The Children of Kidillin (1940) where she discarded possible divisions of class, religion, education and parental income simply to confront mutually hostile Scots and English cousins with one another. They are evacuees – and, in common with Blyton’s own divided family, the cousins are unknown to one another (‘One’s called Tom, and the other’s called Sheila. They live in London, but their parents want them to go somewhere safe till the war’s over. They’re coming tomorrow!’). The conflict is sanitised (for example the Scots boy, Sandy, wears a kilt, eliciting no derisive comment from his English critics, even at the height of mutual recriminations – a somewhat improbable immunity). Blyton was evidently anxious to kill one common English assumption about Scots at the outset: their supposed meanness. Our first sight of Sandy and his sister Jeanie is of their buying ‘bulls-eye peppermints’ for the expected evacuees. Their major row producing Sandy’s ‘I wish you’d never come!’ is answered by Tom’s bitter ‘When the war is over we’ll go back home. Sandy and Jeanie will be glad to be rid of us then’, which actually horrifies Sandy at the thought that he was violating the laws of hospitality:19

Sandy wanted to say a lot of things but he couldn’t say a word. He was ashamed of himself. After all, his cousins were his guests. How could he have said to them that he wished they had never come? What would his mother and father say if they knew? Scottish people were famous for the welcome they gave to friends.

(p.144) Cousins in Blyton do not assume family loyalty: here, as elsewhere, their friendship actually triumphs over a relationship whose convention is to be unwanted. This follows her own practice, but her instinct may well have been sounder than more pious observers might assume. C. S. Lewis, less pious in this, apparently agreed with her: witness the loathing of his original four for their cousin Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Blyton, whose Scots husband had made her an encyclopaedist, would have known the accepted form of patriotic Scottish cults: Agnes Mure Mackenzie’s I Was at Bannockburn (1939) was one way in which the war of independence was recalled up for a new generation, supposedly conjured up for ‘Jean’ and ‘John’ (convalescing from measles in Edinburgh) by a portrait of Sir Walter Scott, with unacknowledged obligations to Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill. Blyton avoided any such issues, centring dispute around accent and language (she may have known of Hugh MacDiarmid’s establishment of the modern Scottish nationalist agenda initially on a linguistic basis: The Golden Treasury of Scottish Poetry, with his introduction a triumphant clarion call, published by Macmillan in December 1939, and Blyton’s most convenient means of attuning herself to Scottish culture).

Sandy and Jeanie had been showing off to Tom and Sheila. They had taken them for a long walk, up a difficult mountain, where a good deal of rough climbing had to be done. The English children had panted and puffed, and poor Sheila’s shoes were no use at all for such walking.

‘Can’t we have a rest again?’ asked Sheila at last. ‘I’m so tired. This is a dreadful place for walking. I’d much rather walk in the park.’

‘In the park’, said Sandy scornfully. ‘What, when there’s fine country like this, and soft heather to your feet! And look at the view there – you can see the sea!’

Her work was still scholarly: the dative ‘to your feet’ was good middle-class Scots.

The four children sat down. Far away they could see the blue glimmer of the sea, and could hear very faintly the shrill cry of the circling gulls. Tom was so tired that he only gave the view a moment’s look, and then lay down on his back. ‘Phew, I’m tired!’ he said. ‘I vote we go back.’

(p.145) ‘But we’re not yet at the burn we want to show you’, said Jeanie. Sheila giggled.

‘It does sound so funny for a stream to be called a burn!’ she said. ‘It sounds as if something was on fire – going to see the burn!’

‘The bur-r-rn, not the burn’, said Sandy, sounding the R in burn. ‘Can’t you talk properly?’

‘We can talk just as well as you!’ said Tom, vexed, and then off they went, squabbling again!

Blyton knew how to evangelise nature for children, but, awareness of the aesthetic contrast for the veteran and the neophyte in the remote sound of a gull or sight of the sea, goes farther than the usual pedagogical perception. She also noticed how rapidly the urban sophisticate could be humiliated by country cousinhood.

‘There’ll be no time to finish the walk if you lie there any longer’, said Sandy. ‘This is the fourth time we’ve stopped for you – a lazy lot of folk you Londoners must be.’

‘All right. Then we’ll be lazy!’ said Tom angrily. ‘You and Jeanie go on, and Sheila and I will stay here till you come back – and you can go and find your wonderful bur-r-r-r-r-rn yourself.’

Partly by compensation, and partly to provide another cause of anger, the English children prove educationally more advanced than their Scots cousins. The convention is repeated, with more justification, in The Adventurous Four, where Andy is clearly not from a book culture. But neither are Sandy and Jeanie, with scant respect for the future Davie thesis of the democratic intellect (whatever might be the chances given to that with governess education, as practised in Kidillin). To Blyton, the social periphery had country wisdom, the social core had its books. It is a variant of the imperial veneration for the heroic attainments of the superior native coupled with amusement at his obvious unfitness for white man’s education (variously expressed in such works as Biggles in the South Seas, the Beano’s ‘Big Bonehead’ and Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, while being explicitly repudiated in two other stalwarts of the juvenile reading-shelf: John Buchan’s Prester John, and, oddly enough, the Bosambo stories in Edgar Wallace’s ‘Sanders of the River’ series). Blyton did not mean it racially: George, based on herself, exhibits the same traits in the ‘Five’ books, which evidently originated as a variation on the Kidillin theme. George conquers her antipathy to her cousins in Five on a Treasure Island when they join her in the cult of her forbidden (p.146) pet, the dog Timmy, and hence become slightly uncertain allies in her war against her father. The Children of Kidillin had used the same idea of canine friendships and adult enemies, but with Nazi spies and their dog as the enemy against whom the children unite their forces. (The progress is suggestive.) Blyton, with slightly heavy irony, uses the mutual hostility of the English dog (ecumenically called Paddy) and the Scottish dog Mack to make fun of the children’s quarrels (as opposed to making fun of the children). Then the dogs stand firm when the children are threatened by the spies’ ‘big brute of a dog’, after Paddy has been rescued by Sandy from the mountain burn, and Tom makes the amende honorable: ‘What a day! … Quarrels and adventures and dog-fights! Goodness, Scotland is a most exciting place – much better than London, I can tell you!’ Despite Blyton’s conspiratorial ‘you should have seen how pleased Sandy and Jeanie were to hear that!’, as marking the sealing of concord, her anonymous revisers removed both speech and comment after her death. It might have seemed an absurd capitulation for an evacuee from the Blitz, but she rightly documented the contempt of many evacuees for the premature panic of the ‘phoney’ war (bow-dlerisation of Blyton has in general been a foolish activity). She also noted, as Brent-Dyer had, that there was nothing phoney about the naval war from the very start. Tom identifies the spies’ wireless transmitter:20

‘I’ve seen one before. These men can send out radio messages as well as receive them – and oh, Sandy, that’s what they’ve been doing, the wretches! As soon as they see the steamers pass on the sea in the distance, they send a radio message to some submarine lurking near by, and the submarine torpedoes the steamers!’

‘Oh! So that’s why there have been so many steamers sunk round our coast’, said Sandy, his eyes flashing in anger. ‘The hateful scoundrels! I’m going to smash their set, anyway!’

Before Tom could stop Sandy, the raging boy picked up a stone and smashed it into the centre of the transmitter. ‘You won’t sink any more steamers!’ he cried.

That was propaganda by catharsis. It was what child readers would so dearly have wanted to do. Blyton’s audience was chiefly English, but at that point they would gladly settle for being Scots. Listeners on the English periphery used to talk back to the wireless, and frequently hurl abuse at Lord Haw-Haw, whose reiteration that the British were starving once led an Ulster Presbyterian grandmother (p.147) to hurl a sizzling frying-pan into her set, yelling ‘Smell that, ye bugger!’21

The break-up of Blyton’s marriage to the Scottish Major Hugh Pollock ended the signature ‘Mary Pollock’ and deferred Blyton’s subsequent use of a Scottish locale. But an aspirant Scots writer seems to have taken note of her use of Anglo-Scots child tension and furthered it: Ayrshire-born (like Hugh Pollock), Agnes M. R. Dunlop wrote as Elisabeth Kyle, and began her second literary career as a children’s author in 1941 with Visitors from England. The title seemed intended to cash in on Kitty Barne’s Carnegie Medal-winner, Visitors from London; but, while the young English duo are clearly evacuees, nothing is made of the war. Matters begin on Blytonian lines of national conflict (‘“He’s Scots, so he’s likely to be an awful tough”, Peter said gloomily’) with social pretension prematurely held against the English (‘La-de-da English with their fine clothes and fine manners. I wouldn’t be seen dead with such’) and Scots concern for appearances (‘they’ll see the room in the morning, she told herself as she led Margot past the sitting-room she had scrubbed and polished that morning so as to give them a good impression of Scots housewifery’). This is scene-setting, less dramatic than Blyton, but picking up as the gradations in Scots society and their consequent rivalries are brought into play. Anglo-Scots prickles are better flaunted when young Scots characters visit Peter and Margot in London, and make rather more of the impact of war, in The Seven Sapphires (‘No doubt the English are as kind-hearted as anyone else, once you get behind their faces …’).22

The English have a considerable literature for child consumption inducing kindness to animals. In the main, it doesn’t seem intended for self-glorification, although irritated dissident Anglophones have implied it – the North American Marshall Saunders’s Beautiful Joe (1894) included a horrific story of an Englishman (unnamed, and thus permanently identified by nationality) who comes to a very bad end after hideous cruelty to animals, and the Irish Protestant squirearchs Edith Somerville and [Violet] Martin ‘Ross’ – conscious of standing apart from both English Protestants and Irish Catholics – grimly realise the clash of cultures in The Silver Fox (1898), where the English lady weeps for her dead horse, and the Irish peasant girl who has saved her life reminds her that she had shed no tear when the Irish girl’s brother had been killed. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877) was in fact an attack on ill-treatment of horses; and, being set in England, the ill-treatment is by the English, nor does it mask a means for class hostilities by exhibiting working-class cruelty to (p.148) beasts (as frequently if incidentally abounded in literature): its human heroes are cabmen and stable-hands. The Second World War was not kind to animals: Shead’s They Sailed by Night begins with a useless search for a dog killed or stampeded by the bomb which obliterated the family’s home and street.23 Johns in Spitfire Parade resurrected a First World War story, greatly improving it as a story at the cost of hard, authentic war-flying in 1918, originally ‘The Funk’, renamed ‘The Coward’: initially a cowardly pilot learns courage – indeed foolhardiness – when his pet goldfish is killed by a German pilot; in the rewrite, the coward has a little pig, called Annie.

Ginger watched him curiously, and with compassion, as he went into the sty and, sitting on the edge of the feeding trough, tweaked the piglet’s ear, a demonstration of affection which the animal appeared to appreciate, for it rested its nose on his knee, grunting contentedly. It seemed that Henry had, as he had claimed, a way with animals.

He duly loses his fear and distinguishes himself by crazy courage in an aerial fight over the Thames Estuary (where Amy Johnson was killed), and when he returns with his plane shot to pieces they discover why:

‘Just after you took off a dive bomber came in low and plastered us. He dropped a stick of bombs, but this was the only one that did any damage.’

‘Damage’, grated Henry. ‘The swine killed Annie – my little Annie.’

Understanding dawned in Biggles’s eyes. ‘I see’, he said.

‘I went up to avenge her’, burst out Henry. ‘Revenge! Revenge is sweet. I’ll get the hound who killed my little Annie if I have to shoot every Hun out of the sky.’

But Johns evidently could not bring himself to kill the pig as he had once killed the goldfish, and Annie was saved by taking to her heels at the first bomb, duly returned to base by a farmer who found her ‘tearing across my land’ and identified her by the RAF markings painted on her flanks by Henry’s derisive fellow-pilots. It achieved the exceptional balance of satire and pathos available to few, and the odds fall in favour of the absurdly idolised pet in the end:24 ‘Peering through a net in the back of the vehicle, looking very scared and pleased to be home, was Annie’. Johns was asking his readers to keep (p.149) their humour as best they could amid the domestic tragedies of the Blitz, when, like Annie, so many of them had to flee to escape destruction. But the evacuees could seldom indulge themselves with pets in the vortex of war. Blyton, whether avowedly setting her stories in time of war, or inferentially so (inference easily for a war-surrounded child to make), returned to the theme of outlawed animals. George is forbidden to have her dog in Five on a Treasure Island (1942). Ownership of pets seems restricted to the wealthy, like Fatty Trotteville and Lady Candling in The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (1944). The parrot is only permitted in The Island of Adventure (1944) because the harassed, overworked aunt thinks that it is sympathising with her. Blyton was in fact noting the climate of the times with the reminiscent grief of a child forbidden to have animal pets long ago.

But the Zeitgeist was also reflected in child minds; and, with the loss of so much else among the evacuees, few could have the luxury of keeping pets when human relationships were so shattered. A child allowed to quell its fears by the adoption of a new pet, as Henry in Biggles’s squadron had, was very fortunate. Violet M. Methley in Vackies (1941) has a six-year-old maddening everyone by its devotion to a tortoise, although its determination wins. P. L. Travers may have been more representative in having Sabrina coolly telling her readers at the outset how her last days in the family home saw ‘special Treats like … killing off Mrs Metcalfe and Mrs de Quincy, two special hens, to supplement the meat Ration’ (Mary Poppins is a trifle hard-bitten, and Travers may have reflected the pragmatism of her Irish ancestors on such matters). But Crompton certainly marked a new departure in animal-loving in these days when children sang ‘Run, Rabbit, Run’ with the sang-froid of a God of Battles indifferently noting the choices of sacrificial victims. Crompton had let herself go in making William so devoted an owner of the mongrel Jumble, but any other animal in her stories has to take its chances where it can find them. Her Second World War showed William going through toils of intrigue to save the life of a little female evacuee’s pet rabbit: ‘They just say it’s war-time and they’re only keeping rabbits for food and I must get used to eating them. They say they’ve left Ernest as long as they can and if they leave him any longer he won’t be fit to eat.’ Eventually, William manages to get a guarantee from General Moult that Ernest (whom the general is led to think belongs to him) is to be given to the little girl and not to be eaten. William finds her nursing ‘a large fluffy Chinchilla rabbit’ which her aunt (p.150) has just given her. When he produces Ernest and the general’s note,25

The little girl stared at Ernest with an expression of contempt that almost rivalled Ernest’s own.

‘Oh, that thing’, she said. ‘Goodness, I’d quite forgotten it! It’s just an ordinary table rabbit. Mother!’ she called, ‘here’s this ole rabbit back we lost. Can we have it for supper?’

The little girl is a solitary evacuee, but William is exceptionally sympathetic with evacuees in general from the first. Crompton makes constructive use of native infant envy of coddled evacuees, but William himself is statesmanlike:26

‘We’ve gotter do something for the evacuees’, he said sternly to his Outlaws that evening. ‘Nothin’s been done for ’em for ever so long.’

‘They did enough for ’em at Christmas’, said Ginger.

‘Yes, but they wouldn’t let us help’, complained William. ‘Stopped us every time we tried to give ’em a good time. Gave ’em a party an’ then wouldn’t let ’em have a good time.’

Their minds went back to the Christmas party given by the residents to the evacuees. It had had the makings of a good party, but, just as the Outlaws were succeeding in working up what seemed to them the right spirit, Authority had stepped in and accused them of ‘getting rough’. They had been ignominiously ejected from the Village Hall in the middle of a game invented by William, called Lions and Tigers, in which the evacuees were joining with zest and which had already shown the weak spots in the party clothes hastily put together by kind-hearted but unskilled residents.

‘They say that they could hear the noise at the other end of the village’, said Mrs Brown sternly to William when the affair had been reported to her.

‘Well, that only shows they were enjoying themselves’, said William. ‘You can always hear the noise at the other end of the village if people are enjoying themselves.’

Ultimately (though he has to capture a German spy to do it), William gets control of a cottage and throws a party for the evacuees: ‘Sounds of revelry had, indeed, been heard as far off as the next village, and the guests had departed home in that tattered condition that seemed to be the inevitable result of any game organized by the Outlaws’. (p.151) But, by this stage, the local children are becoming so resentful that they want to be evacuated in their turn, however uncertain of what the process means:27

‘A whole tin of sweets each. It’s not fair, it isn’t. Puttin’ on side an’ havin’ parties an’ eatin’ whole tins of sweets. It’s not fair. We oughter be ’vacuated, too.’

‘I’ve been ’vacuated’, said a small, foursquare child proudly. ‘It made my arm come up somethin’ korful.’

‘Shut up, Georgie Parker’, said Arabella. ‘It’s a different sort of ’vacuated you have done on your arm. It’s to stop you turnin’ into a cow you have it done on your arm.’

This is in spring 1940. A year later, envy had ripened into hostility, as is shown when a self-created child psychologist appeals in vain to the better nature of the village children (not including William or his Outlaws):

The speech by which Mrs Dayford urged the little guests to show patriotism and self-sacrifice was lengthy and eloquent.

‘Remember, dear children’, she ended, ‘that we are at war. Remember that we must all display the spirit of patriotism and self-control. We must eat, of course, in order to live, but let us show a spirit of service and comradeship this afternoon by eating as little as possible – as little as possible, dear children, so that what is left may go to the strangers we have welcomed into our midst, the evacuees.’

She sat down amidst an applause that marked not so much approval of the sentiments she had expressed as relief that the speech was over and that the real business of the day might now begin. As one man, the little guests fell upon the feast outspread before them. The thought that the residue was to go to the evacuees had whetted their appetites. Not one but had suffered at the hands of the evacuees (tough young guys from the East End of London whose methods of warfare were novel and unpleasant) and the thought that their tormentors might profit from their abstinence urged them on to as yet greater feats of gastronomy.

So another busybody bites the Crompton dust. She was particularly alive to power-trippers versus workers, on social projects, and William from time to time proved precisely the parody of the ignorant (p.152) busybody her satire required (for example when he begins organising evacuees).

Norman Dale, possibly inspired by this passage, opened his Secret Service (1943) from the point of view of the London evacuee:

‘And what part of London do you come from?’ ‘Hackney, lady’, said Peter.

‘Hackney? That’s in the East End, isn’t it? Of course. …’

He is duly challenged to combat, butting and kicking a child-hating cook when she shakes him violently, and later retaliating on a bigger boy at a children’s party: ‘He stopped being a quiet, friendly little boy and became a tough, wiry little demon, fighting in every way he could … No one had ever taught Peter that it is wrong to kick when you got into a fight.’ For this he is disgraced, and runs away, which enables his author to pitch him into a good spy thriller. Peter is evidently Cockney, but Dale spares us the usual embarrassing middle-class author self-insurance on the snob scale by the use of Cockney dialect, as though all the English did not have accents of their own. Yet Peter is clearly akin to the more rural, more middle-class William, all the more when he links up once more with his best friend, Ginger. William would certainly have sympathised with Peter’s first reaction to Mrs Chater, the evacuation officer, whose ‘Of course’ when she identifies Hackney as East End is worthy of a Crompton character:28 ‘The thing [Peter] had found about living in the country was that it was full of ladies with bright, beaming smiles who told you where to go and what to do, and didn’t pay attention to anything you said’.

Essentially, Mrs Dayford and Mrs Chater are anti-gurus. The classic pattern of fiction for children had always presumed a godlike figure, perhaps two, from the adult world, godlike above all in the rarity of its interventions for whatever reason. When the guru intervenes, the guru listens. Kipling’s Kim has his guru, and also his imperial secret agent. The guru might be from the periphery, even beyond its racial or colour frontier, as Kim’s is, but the secular authority-figure must be from the metropolis, the core. The author may introduce itself into the story as guru: P. L. Travers does, as ‘Pel’, a supervisory family friend, in I Go by Sea, I Go by Land, inviting the thought that Mary Poppins (revived during the war in Mary Poppins Opens the Door, 1943) is both guru and author, which, if true, seems too active for a true guru. Evacuees certainly need gurus, all the more when their situation throws up anti-gurus (from Dale’s Mrs Chater to (p.153) Waugh’s Basil Seal). Lewis, like Hughes, is author and guru outside the story, but relevantly to its making – as ‘the Professor’ in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, only present outside Narnia (and no longer guru (or, one suspects, Lewis) when he enters it as the boy Digory in The Magician’s Nephew). Crompton occasionally appears as guru (most notably in ‘William and the Four-Forty’ (May 1948) as an author rejoicing in the name of Miss Surley). The guru must not be a surrogate mother or father – in Treasure Island, replete with father-figures (for the most part very sinister ones such as Billy Bones, Black Dog, Long John Silver and Israel Hands), the guru is Ben Gunn, who may seem contemptible but whose apparent absurdities conceal the clues to quest and/or existence which the hero needs. Enid Blyton may have brought off a guru in Bill Smugs, in The Island of Adventure (the child protagonist is usually doubtful as to whether the guru shares its priorities or loyalties, even national ones); but repetition dulls a guru’s force, and becoming stepfather to the child(ren) is fatal.

Jesus Christ is of course a guru, all the more because of His most unusual liking for children, perhaps unique in the Bible, apart from the very sad case of Eli (in the story of the infant Samuel). From this, it follows that Lewis’s Aslan is a guru in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; but, as my daughter Sara pointed out, Aslan is a much weaker figure in all the other stories (perhaps inevitably, since Jesus Christ does not appear in most of their originals: Shakespeare’s King John (nephew Arthur), the voyages of Máel Dúin and St Brendan, Genesis 1 and 2 and so on). Tolkien disapproved of the Narnia stories as being allegory and hence unsound (‘It really won’t do, you know!’); but, while we must respect his insistence that The Lord of the Rings (and still more The Hobbit) had no such origin, Gandalf – leaving aside his sacrifice, suffering and resurrection – is undoubtedly a guru. So is Obi-wan Kenobi in that remarkable amalgam of mythology and science fiction, the first Star Wars movie. Lewis experimented with other guru figures, rightly exploring the comic possibilities, resulting in the mouse Reepicheep, the Marsh-wiggle Puddleglum (based on Pascal) and the horse Bree; and, in Uncle Andrew the magician, and the architect of evil the Ape, he showed the anti-guru as contemptible and – in the effects of his meddling – dangerous. The Ape is in fact Antichrist, partly based on Lewis’s Belfast boyhood image of Pope Leo XIII, and in Antichrist we certainly find the recipe for anti-guru.29

Guru was a crucial category in children’s fiction during the war, especially in the evacuee context. Malcolm Saville, taking topography (p.154) as his starting-point, introduced his story with guru discussion of its location to the neophyte – Bill Ward in Mystery at Witchend on the spirit of Shropshire’s Long Mynd, Miss Ballinger (who proves to be an anti-guru but plays the guru’s topographical knowledge well enough to unsettle the reader’s loyalties in The Gay Dolphin Adventure, 1945), Alan in The Secret of Grey Walls (1947). A Johns story may follow Kim in making a guru a non-white (Fee Wong in Biggles in Borneo, Li Chi in Biggles Delivers the Goods); or he may be a priest (Worrals Carries On, King of the Commandos and (in a touching and apparently irrelevant cameo) Biggles ‘Fails to Return’). The Johns stories imply that the guru’s priorities are probably admirable in themselves (save for Li Chi’s piracy), but they have to be suspended for the duration of enemy action. Here again, the anti-guru is dangerous: Worrals Flies Again (November 1942) stars a nun who proves to be the local Nazi intelligence chief in drag. In the Chalet School series, Joey when married becomes a sort of guru, though a very vulnerable one during the war itself. Richard Hughes naturally was a guru for the real-life evacuees, and the kind above all they needed, but his stories shift very cleverly, and it is well to be very sure of the tale and all its possible interpretations before acknowledging possible gurus.30

What with her weekly-and-then-fortnightly Sunny Stories and her mind-boggling geometrical progression in productivity, Blyton established herself as guru in its most obvious sense for children, a trusted alternative to parents and other productivity figures. Correspondingly, one of her most interesting services in the war was to distance the protagonists from gurus. The evacuee child had to learn that there was no guru in sight or earshot. Blyton’s fisher-boy Andy

longed desperately for some grown-up who could take command and tell him what would be the best thing to do. But there was no grown-up. This was something he had to decide himself – and he must decide well, because the two girls were in his care.

The last point is as near as Blyton gets to hinting at rape dangers from enemies. There is also one hell of a dilemma in it: to tell the British authorities about the nest of Nazi submarines preying on vessels during the battle of the Atlantic, Andy and Tom have to leave the girls to take their chances on Nazi forbearance. It may well be the most Spartan alternative confronting children in any fiction from the Second World War:31

(p.155) The girls said nothing. They did not like being left alone on the island – and yet they knew Andy was right. Somehow he must get home and tell the people there the secrets they had discovered. The raft would not really take four – and the girls were not strong enough to stand days and nights of tossing about on the sea.

‘Well, Andy, it’s very important that you should get back and tell the secret of these islands’, said Jill at last. ‘So, for the sake of our country, Mary and I will stay behind here without any fuss and do the best we can, whilst you and Tom set off for home. But do rescue us as soon as possible!’

Johns suggests a danger of rape unless Gimlet rescues a girl in the French resistance betrayed into Nazi hands.32 It is what Lewis meant when he said he wrote33

‘for children’ only in the sense that I excluded what I thought they would not like or understand; not in the sense of writing what I intended to be below adult attention. I may of course have been deceived, but the principle at least saves one from being patronizing.

When being taught the ten commandments as a child, I asked what was adultery, and was told that adultery is something only adults do. Lewis took it so far as to exclude one of his original four children, Susan, from ultimate salvation at the end of Narnia (The Last Battle) because she has become interested in feminine frivolities, i.e. the paraphernalia of sexual allurement. In fact, he very much needed that prohibition on sex: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe can only work with an absolute suspension of concerns about sex and paedophilia, since it turns on a faun inviting a little girl to tea while secretly intending to betray her (to the local Hitler, the White Witch – whence all evil flows). Lewis took himself out of his stories – he is clearly ‘the Professor’ in the various drafts, but if he is anywhere in the Lucy-and-Faun encounter he is Lucy, and in any case the scene derives from Alice’s encounter with a much more deer-child Faun in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. But fauns in the sense Lewis was employing are companions to Silenus and similar voluptuaries in Rubens paintings or to Comus and damnable entourage in Milton masque. ‘I mean to say: “Nymphs and their Ways, the Love-Life of a Faun” ’, worried Tolkien. ‘Doesn’t he know what he’s talking about?’34 Fortunately, he didn’t. As to Lewis’s intrusion into his story on a guru basis, the Professor’s role is too brief, and he could not (p.156) compete with Aslan, whose entry into the story, unplanned, sidelined the Professor, a character from the earliest drafts. Still less is Lewis a guru in The Magician’s Nephew, but the Professor when the boy Digory becomes rather good at dealing with his uncle, the anti-guru. His one retention from guru status is his absence of sex-life, despite the charming companion of his childhood, Polly.

In some ways, gurus are listeners rather than lookers: the child, especially the evacuee, has to act and may receive some moral reinforcement when telling the guru. Lewis as the Professor plays that role, and so does Aslan (albeit closer to auricular Confession as a High Anglican sacrament or near-sacrament). So does Hughes’s method of storytelling. Blyton’s occasional interventions in pauses or finale of her own stories almost seem as though she has been listening to the tale that has unwound, as though she were some sort of medium (and she certainly felt unaware of her own creativity). BBC Children’s Hour made the guru a creature of sound, but in part one whose presentation implied his own listening to what he presented.

The BBC Children’s Hour ‘Uncle Mac’ (Derek McCulloch) retired in 1950, and the practice of other uncles on the wireless – such as ‘Uncle Jim’, who explained fossils and archaeology and early earth history in agreeably thriller-ish school broadcasts – was likewise eroded after that. Most children were probably used to, and sceptical about, adults claiming bogus avuncular status; but Uncle Mac convinced infant listeners during the war that he really was another uncle, who lived exclusively in the wireless and in gramophone records. He had been created long before the war, but his supreme value must have been to the evacuees or other lonely children cut off from any real family of their own for much of the time. His voice made you feel that he at least knew about you, cared about you and wanted you to be happy.35

What ultimately replaced gurus was self-reliance, all too easily becoming self-absorption and self-aggrandisement. The Blyton reader found a guru rather than an ultimate Authority in Blyton with her occasional chorus-like interventions, irritating – and distancing – to adults, reassuring to many children. But, as Authority, Blyton must have impinged on some children in her capacity as creator. Her refusal to mention Hitler and the Nazis, even Germany, by name is clearly judicial. Sheila Ray, her finest critic, finds it ‘difficult to explain’; I suspect it was a form of bush-telegraph to children that this was the unspeakable. The Nazis’ first appearance (by seaplane) in The Adventurous Four is almost ceremonially established:36

(p.157) ‘Let’s get up and shout and wave’, begged Jill. ‘I’m sure they will love to rescue us.’

‘Haven’t you seen the sign on the wings?’ asked Tom, in a curiously angry voice. The girls looked. The sign of the crooked cross was painted on each wing – the sign of the enemy, the foe of half the world.

‘Golly!’ said Mary, and she drew a deep breath. ‘Enemies! Using these islands! Do they belong to them?’

‘Of course not’, said Andy. ‘But they are desolate, and out of the usual ships’ course – and they’ve been noted by the enemy, and he’s using them as a kind of base for something – seaplanes perhaps.’

Submarines as well, it proves. This is again grateful homage to The Riddle of the Sands. It was also subtle propaganda. Sunny Stories began serialisation of The Adventurous Four on 6 September 1940. Blyton wrote it, therefore, during the Battle of Britain, when the ‘crooked cross’ (vaguely equating the swastika with Antichrist) was at war only with the UK, left ‘standing alone’. But there were the dominions. And there were the European countries conquered by the Nazis. Metaphor was nothing new to readers of Sunny Stories, full of naughty children, symbolising you the reader in your more antisocial moments, who are punished by brownies or elves. She had produced her version of Hitler in one of its short stories, ‘The Strange Looking-Glass’ (2 February 1940):

There was once a man who was chief of a big country. … he had made the people think that he was the most wonderful man in the world.

‘I am the great Lord Biff’, said the chief, and he dressed himself up in a fine uniform and walked up and down the palace he had built specially for himself, very pleased to see how frightened every one looked.

He gathered around him fierce and cruel men, and they did all he wanted them to do.

‘Take my soldiers into the little country of Nearby, and make it mine’, he said. So his chief men did so, and the country of Nearby became Lord Biff’s.

‘Go to the land of Notfaroff, and tell them I am sorry they do not belong to me’, said Lord Biff the next year. ‘Tell them I will do all I can to make them Biff men.’

So off marched the soldiers again, and although the people of (p.158) Notfaroff hated belonging to Lord Biff, they could do nothing else but surrender, for the Biffians were very cruel and strong.

One day a strange prisoner was captured in a cave of a distant land. He was small, and was dressed only in a piece of sackcloth tied round his waist. His hair hung to his shoulders, and his eyes were the strangest that any one had ever seen, for they were large and shone with a queer light.

The man has a looking-glass in which Biff sees a rat where his own face should be (after the man has called him ‘Sir Rat’).

Lord Biff got such a shock that he went pale. ‘Go!’ he said to his men. ‘Leave me alone with this man.’

Every one went out. Lord Biff stalked up and down in his fine uniform, trying to make the silent stranger think what a wonderful fellow he was.

‘Why do you keep me here, Sir Peacock?’ asked the prisoner at last. Lord Biff swung round on his heel and glowered. He snatched the looking-glass from his hand and held it up to his face. The beak of a peacock looked back at him. His own face was not there.

‘The glass is untrue!’ roared Lord Biff. ‘I am not a rat. I am not a peacock. I am a man as strong and bold as a lion. I bring peace to the countries round me, and I am as gentle as a lamb to others weaker than myself. This glass should show a lion’s brave face, or a lamb’s mild head!’

‘The glass shows what it sees, Sir Snake’, answered the prisoner.

He held up the glass, expecting to see the bold glance of a lion – but instead he saw the forked quivering tongue of a snake, and the flattened head and sly eyes of one of the most poisonous and treacherous snakes in the world.

Biff turns the mirror on ‘my wonderful friends’, who are successively revealed as ‘a slimy worm’, ‘a poor, stupid sheep’, ‘a savage wolf’, ‘a snarling dog’, ‘a cruel vulture-bird’ and ‘a sharp-nosed rat’, all of whom he then puts to death. He then searches for worthy followers but finds only ‘timid mice’ or ‘silly sheep’.

Then Lord Biff flew into a fury, as he always did when he could not get his own way. ‘What sort of a country is this, that there are only sheep and mice in it?’ he roared. ‘Where are the lion-hearted people gone, where are the clever tigers, the faithful dogs?’

(p.159) ‘You sent them away, or had them killed years ago, Lord Biff’, said the prisoner, who was with him still.

‘I didn’t! I wouldn’t do such a thing! I’ll have you killed at once for daring to say such a thing to me, the kindest and most peaceful man in the world!’ yelled Lord Biff.

The stranger took his glass and held it in front of Lord Biff. He glared at it – and in it he saw the terrible face of a mad dog, with bared teeth and staring eyes. He snarled angrily, and taking the mirror, he hurled it to the ground. It smashed into a million pieces.

‘It lies!’ he said. ‘But now it is gone for ever!’

‘It cannot lie’, said the stranger softly. ‘It is the eye of God. It sees you always as you are, Lord Biff, and you would do well to repent and do good instead of evil.’

He gathered up the tiny pieces of glass and disappeared through the door. Lord Biff did not stop him. He sat trembling in his chair, knowing that he was only a mad dog leading a troop of sheep and mice. What could save him now? Nothing!

End of story. Blyton’s comment in her introductory letter was: ‘I wonder if you will like “The Strange Looking-Glass” story? What would we see in it if we looked into it ourselves, and saw what we really are deep inside ourselves?’ The ‘we’ rather than ‘you’ distinguishes her from Victorian predecessors, but she clearly did not want hating Hitler to become an excuse for complacency. The basic joke is appropriately childish – ‘Lord Biff’ for ‘Hitler’, ‘biff’ being the current playground slang for ‘hit’ (Shaw in Geneva (1938) had made him ‘Battler’). But the conceit is impressive, the mirror-images showing human sentiment changing from minute to minute. And the end, with a Hitler neither killed nor defeated, but simply alone in his dreadful self-created solitude, was memorable and reassuring. It was wholly at variance with the ending with which she normally tied up her narratives, the good ending happily and the bad on the road to reform. This icy tableau alone told the children there is a story behind the story: for once, a parent is to be asked for further exposition.

Blyton’s vision of Hitler went deeper than proclaiming him a baddy on the hang-the-Kaiser lines of the previous war; but it sought no pity for him as, very cleverly, Buchan did for a conscience-ravaged Kaiser in Greenmantle (1916) (thus firmly making him chief witness for his own war-guilt). Equally, the Nazi airmen and/or submarine sailors in The Adventurous Four are not sadists or even bullies (nor could Blyton easily cope if they were; like the ancient Greek (p.160) dramatists, she kept tragic action offstage). They question the captured Tom:

‘How did you find this cave?’ asked the man who spoke English.

‘By accident’, said Tom.

‘And I suppose you also found our boat by accident, and saw the submarines by accident?’ said the man, in a very nasty voice. ‘Are you sure there is no one else here with you?’

‘Quite sure’, said Tom. ‘Wouldn’t you see them in the cave, if there were?’

‘We shall not take your word for it’, said the man, with a horrid laugh. ‘We shall search this island and both those next to it – and if we find anyone else, you will be very, very sorry for yourself!’

But when later Tom escapes, and later still all the children are captured, the Nazis still merely threaten, and actually ensure food and shelter. One injures himself with a tin-opener to aid the captured and hungry Tom (Blyton’s constantly food-obsessed children must be in part a device to forge another link with a readership under rationing). Even when the Nazis learn of the escape of Andy and Tom, with the consequent possibility of air-sea search for the Nazis’ base and, in fact, fatal effects for it in the long run, their worst threat is to the girls:

I shall order out my seaplanes and they will find those bad boys, and bring them back again. And you will all be made prisoners on another island till we take you far away to our country where you will stay for a long time … [and when] we shall have caught the two bad boys[, t]hey will be punished, you may be sure!

It is a convincing portrait of a German officer, but not of a Nazi monster: obviously the children should have been shot at the earliest stage. When, at the end, the Adventurous Four, reunited with the English trio’s father in the RAF, hear the guns firing, Father confirms the fate of the Nazis:

‘It will be the end of those hateful submarines’, said his father gravely. ‘There will be no more of our ships sunk without warning by that nest of submarines! And I rather think that our aeroplanes will drive off any seaplanes round about those islands – those that are not destroyed will fly to their own country in fear! They are no match for our pilots!’

(p.161) That last was standard comment from the Battle of Britain onwards, more from lay commentators than from former airmen such as Johns.

The children were silent as they listened to the guns booming far away again. They were all imagining the islands echoing to the terrific sound of gun-fire. Mary began to cry.

Her father put his arm round her. ‘Yes, Mary’, he said, ‘it is something to cry about, to think that we have to fight so much evil and wickedness. It is right against wrong and we have to be strong and courageous when we fight such a powerful and evil enemy as ours. But dry your eyes – you are on the right side and that is something to be proud of!’

Blyton would leave blanks for reader emotion to fill in (including, it has been said, most of her protagonists’ characters). But this message is clear enough – as clear as that of the US naval officer at the battle of Santiago, John Woodward Philip: ‘Don’t cheer, men, those poor devils are dying’. Naturally, Mary’s sentiment is not shared by Andy, a frontiersman in the Andrew Jackson tradition: ‘Andy came tearing up to the cottage. “I say!” he yelled. “Do you hear the guns? I guess they are waking up the islands! What a shock for the enemy!” ’ This is consistent: throughout the story, Andy’s leadership is impaired by his humiliation at forgetting an anchor, or seeing the Nazis win. Blyton was quietly challenging male chauvinism, partly in the somewhat confused psyche of George in the ‘Five’ stories, partly more directly as here. At the moment of truth, when the boys see the submarines lying ‘like great grey crocodiles, humped out of the water’, the younger boy (and elder brother) thinks of the country, the elder boy of the girls:

‘Andy’, he said. ‘We’ve got to get home and tell what we’ve seen.’

‘I know’, said Andy. ‘I’m thinking that too, Tom. And we’ve got to get the girls off these islands. We are all in danger. If the enemy knew we were spying on them like this I don’t know what would happen to us.’

‘I don’t care how much danger we’re in’, said Tom, and he didn’t. ‘All I know is that we’ve got to go and tell our people at home about this submarine base. It’s got to be cleared away. Andy, it’s serious.’

Andy nodded. Both boys seemed to become men at that moment. They looked gravely into each other’s eyes and what they saw there pleased them both. Each boy knew that the other would do his best and even more than his best.

(p.162) It’s doubtful if a male writer has managed so masculine a moment so neatly. But it is not at a cost to female dignity, however much Andy feels frontier necessities of assertion. Within a few pages, they have to hide a boat they have stolen from the Nazis:37

‘Just the place’, said Andy, pulling into the tiny beach. ‘Jump out, girls. Take the food with you. Give a hand with the boat, Tom. We’ll run it up the beach and put it right under that dangerous piece of cliff. It will be well hidden there.’

They put the boat there and looked at it. The end of it jutted out and could be seen. Jill ran to a seaweed-covered rock and pulled off handfuls of the weed.

‘Let’s make the boat into a rock!’ she said, with a laugh. ‘Cover it with seaweed!’

‘Jolly good idea!’ said Andy. ‘I didn’t know girls could have such good ideas!’

‘You wait and see what fine ideas we have!’ said Mary.

In the end, Andy learns enough to accept the ugly necessity to leave the girls behind when Tom and he break away on a frail, child-built raft to get the submarine-base information home. Blyton may have to mute the risk to the girls, but it leaves Andy with a male need to exult over the Nazis who had so emasculated his leadership.

Blyton seems to have written little directly about the war after that, until it was over. A flight of Tempests supplies the clue to an insurance swindle in The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (1943). The Castle of Adventure, a 1946 publication, seems set in wartime with an unpleasant spy named Mannheim who is described as greatly disliked in his own country (unnamed, again, but clearly Germany: presumably this is to recognise German hostility to the Nazis, one of the few British wartime novels to do so, however covertly).38 The sequel, The Valley of Adventure (1947), plunges into the heart of bomb-devastated Austria, not saying that the Allies had presumably dropped the bombs, but ably bringing out a neglected point – that bombing must have had drastic effects on inter-valley communication in rural European communities, leaving some absolutely isolated. It does assume an anti-Nazi revolt in rural Austria, on Catholic grounds fairly late in the war. Whatever the merits of this thesis (and it may reflect the influence of Brent-Dyer), it is to Blyton’s credit that she makes war no mere matter of rejoicings at an Allied victory. Her cosmopolitan credentials are somewhat impaired by the story’s assumption that South Americans (‘in touch with the old Nazis’), (p.163) although called Juan, Luis and Pepi, speak English as a first language. Her surprising sureness of foot in Austrian terrain owed much – including, no doubt, the choice of locale of the story – to her Austrian maid (and, quickly enough, family friend) Mary, who was with Blyton from 1939 to 1945.

What Blyton was less prepared to tackle was the spy on the doorstep, with the doubtful exception of the second ‘Five’ story Five Go Adventuring Again (1943). Set in Kirrin Cottage, i.e. somewhere in the Swanage rural seacoast hinterland, it is the second campaign in the war between George and her father, and global conflicts are secondary if indeed present. Uncle Quentin (surname still unknown) gets a tutor for the boys over the Christmas holidays, sets George also under him, and a drama much more intense than its precursor ensues. The other children take to the tutor, whose feud with George sours their Christmas: their Christmas presents (including his to George, unreciprocated) are described and become an acrid, faintly Maupassant, memory hanging over his subsequent apprehension and temporary imprisonment by the children, with a repentant Uncle Quentin’s approval. What is not clear is whether the tutor is a Nazi spy or merely a private profiteer in stealing; George at the height of the crisis makes the most formal guess: ‘the secret Father has been working on for ages will be used by someone else – for some other country, probably!’39 Presumably readers were expected to conclude that the tutor was working for the Nazis, and so were the artists secretly in collaboration with him, and it was left to them to work out what luxuries like tutors and artists were doing out of uniform in the otherwise heavily rationed festive season. By keeping it vague, Blyton could sidestep the argument, which in any case only raises its head because she had addressed the war with perception, dignity and, ultimately, compassion. Supposedly more realistic writers like Arthur Ransome made no contribution to Second World War literature at all, his excellent adventure story Missee Lee actually opening with its British child protagonists in a very friendly Japanese port before going on to excitement in pirate-haunted but Japanese-free China, regardless of its publication in 1941 a few weeks before Pearl Harbor was bombed, and a few more before Hong Kong and Singapore fell to Japan. And, for those who epitomise Blyton as the self-absorbed middle-class solipsist, contrast her war record with writers such as M. E. Atkinson, whose slightly smug little Lockitts cycle their adventure-hungry way through England’s green lanes utterly indifferent either to wartime privations or skyborne death. Atkinson had her formula, and Hitler was not going to hustle her out of it.40

(p.164) Blyton’s abdication from war fiction may have had a personal element. Her husband, Major Hugh Pollock, who worked at Newnes,41 had gone into the Home Guard, with duties taking him away from his family home, and the marriage foundered, apparently with adultery on both sides. Blyton’s divorce and second marriage mated her to a surgeon, Kenneth Darrell Waters, who seems to have been much more authoritarian in relation to society (and to his stepdaughters) than was her first husband. He could not possibly be of the professional value to her that Pollock had been, and he probably sought to compensate for this by what he took to be protectiveness, but which bordered on officiousness. Blyton may have been blamed for many of his dictates, which she over-submissively accepted. The war entailed the loss of her first husband – who was deleted from all family contact and was removed from his post at Newnes at what was taken to be Blyton’s demand: the war may therefore have become too painful for her to write about, save in an elegiac post-war fashion. But within any such decision there was a deeper matter. Blyton in these years became a best-selling writer as Enid Blyton, although not as Mary Pollock. She reached thousands of children. She seems to have decided to protect them against pollution by war. It had ceased now to be a question of survival. She had done her bit, and so, by participation in her work by reading, had her audience – Sunny Stories forged that relationship with hardening steel over the years. She would now give her young readers stories of courage, comradeship, endurance, intelligence, love of animals – but no more war. Baddies might have the occasional gun, but would nonetheless be thwarted by children unarmed and dangerous. The children might even face death, as Philip does in The Mountain of Adventure with a fine brave front and a nasty hidden little kernel of fear, and probably does so from yet another closet ex-Nazi, Meyer; but by now any dangers of death will be strictly rationed.42

We must not confuse rejection of wartime subjects with some sort of auctorial immunity. Arthur Ransome delivered The Big Six to Jonathan Cape for publication in late 1940, only to have his illustrations destroyed during a bomb raid; he did them again, having first been told that their blocks had survived, and then that they hadn’t. Eve Garnett’s award-winning The Family from One End Street had reflected her anger at slum conditions and her admiration for the humour, resilience, and character of slum families: she had forced her novel on an indifferent publishing world in 1936–7, and saw it gain the second Carnegie Medal for children’s literature, whence it won its place in the second batch of Puffin Books, reaching its mass market (p.165) in 1941. But its sequel, left in her father’s house, was fire-damaged in that year, presumably during enemy action, and Further Adventures of the Family from One End Street did not see publication in part until 1950 and in entirety until 1956. Mabel Esther Allan had her first novel for children accepted before the war and then returned when it broke out; she was bombed out of Liverpool, keeping up her spirits by writing poetry, but did not get the first of her 133 titles in print until 1948. Mary Treadgold wrote We Couldn’t Leave Dinah in her own air-raid shelter in her back garden during the Blitz, although its replication in its imaginary Clerinel of some of the actual Channel Island war experience (so far as it could then be known) emphatically did not include counterparts of the pre-invasion air raid on Guernsey, killing twenty-nine, or the more extensive Jersey raids, machine-gunning and bombing the inhabitants of St Helier, La Rocq, Greve d’Azette, Fort Regent, Beaumont and St Aubin, all undefended, no doubt as softening-up of the survivors for capitulation to Nazi takeover. Such a story as Susan Cooper’s Dawn of Fear (1970), climaxing with the death in an air raid of one of the child protagonists, was simply unthinkable.43 Crompton’s Bromley was the victim of very ugly bomb raids with many casualties, but nobody would have guessed it from her hilarious dissection of an air warden and insistence that native families were being turned into evacuees by official incompetence.

The bomb fell that night. It was literally a bomb. For the first time since the outbreak of war a German bomber, passing over the village, chose, for no conceivable reason, to release part of its load there.

Fortunately, most of it fell in open country and there were no casualties, but one bomb fell in the roadway just outside the Hall, blew up the entrance gates and made a deep crater in the road.

Mr Leicester, complete with overalls and tin hat, was on the spot immediately. It was he who descried, at the bottom of the crater, the smooth rounded surface of a half-buried ‘unexploded bomb’.

All through the months of inactivity he had longed for an Occasion to which he could rise, and he rose to this one superbly. The road must be roped off. Traffic must be diverted. All houses in the immediate neighbourhood must be evacuated. But Lilac Cottage was among the houses that Mr Leicester ordered to be evacuated, and at first Mrs Parfitt did not know where to go. Then Miss Milton came to the rescue. Miss Milton was prim and elderly and very very houseproud. She had had several evacuees (p.166) billeted on her, but none of them had been able to stay the course and all had departed after a few weeks. So now she had a spare bedroom to offer Mrs Parfitt and Joan. …

Crompton was unerring in her detection of the limits to hospitality when classified as ‘my war work’:

Miss Milton had drawn up an elaborate code of rules. Joan was not to use the front door. She was to take off outdoor shoes immediately on entering the house. She was not to speak at meals. If inadvertently she touched any article of furniture, Miss Milton would leap at it with a duster, lips tightly compressed, in order to rub off any possible finger marks. Miss Milton rested upstairs in her bedroom from lunch-time till tea-time. She was, she said, a ‘light sleeper’, so Joan had to creep about the house during that time on tiptoe and not raise her voice above a whisper.

After a week of this both Joan and her mother began to look pale and worn …

William decides to move the unexploded bomb from outside the Hall gates so that Joan can go home.

The bomb was not as closely guarded as it had been at the beginning. Even the policeman, whose duty it had been to stand by the barrier, was now generally away on other duties. There was very little traffic on that road in any case, and the inhabitants, once passionately interested in the bomb, had become bored by it and looked on it merely as a nuisance. Occasionally Mr Leicester still came to gaze at it tenderly over the barrier, his eyes gleaming with the pride of possession. His bomb, his beloved unexploded bomb. … It justified, he felt, his whole career as a warden, gave his life meaning and purpose and inspiration. …

William arrives, scrapes away the earth from the bomb, and is then violently denounced by Mr Leicester, when he appears.

William wiped his hands down his trousers.

‘I’m all right’, he said carelessly. ‘I’ll fetch my tray thing if it starts explodin’.… But, I say, it’s a jolly funny bomb. Come down an’ have a look at it.’

Mr Leicester’s eyes, bulging and bloodshot with emotion, went from William to the bomb … and remained fixed on it. William had cleared all the earth and debris away from it, and it lay there – large, round, of a greyish hue. …

(p.167) Suddenly William gave a shout.

Gosh! I know what it is’, he said.

In the same moment Mr Leicester knew what it was, too.

It was the stone ball from the top of one of the brick piers that had formed the entrance gates of the Hall. …

Mr Leicester inspects it.

‘It is, isn’t it?’ said William.

Slowly Mr Leicester turned to him. With an almost superhuman effort he had recovered something of his self-possession, something even of his normal manner. He looked shaken but master of himself.

‘No need to – er – go about talking of this, my boy’, he said. ‘No need to mention it at all. It would, in fact, be very wrong to – go about upsetting people’s morale by – er – spreading rumours. There are very serious penalties for spreading rumours. I hope that you will remember that.’

William looked at him in silence for a few moments. He was an intelligent boy and knew all about the process of face-saving. He was quite willing to help Mr Leicester save his face, but he didn’t see why he should do it for nothing.

‘Then Joan an’ her mother can go home to-morrow?’ he said.

‘Certainly’, said Mr Leicester graciously.

His eyes kept returning, as if drawn against his will, to the round smooth object at his feet.

‘An’ you’ll come an’ give your cinema show at her party, won’t you?’ said William with elaborate carelessness.

Mr Leicester fixed a stern eye on him.

‘You know quite well that I am not giving any such entertainments during the war’, he said.

William gazed dreamily into the distance.

‘I thought that if we had the cinema at the party’, he said dreamily, ‘it’d be easier for me not to spread rumours.’

Mr Leicester gulped and swallowed. He looked long and hard at William. William continued to gaze dreamily into the distance. There was a silence … then Mr Leicester yielded to the inevitable. …

‘Just this once, my boy’, he said graciously. ‘Just this once. It must never happen again, of course. And I will take for granted that you will not – er – spread rumours.’

‘No’, promised William, ‘I won’t spread rumours.’

(p.168) Mr Leicester next day informs Joan’s mother that she may return to her own house. He then accedes to the request for the cinematograph show.44

‘Isn’t it kind of him, William?’ said Mrs Parfitt. ‘Yes’, agreed William. ‘Jolly kind.’

‘Er – not at all’, murmured Mr Leicester, fixing his eyes on the air just above William’s head. ‘Not at all. Don’t mention it. An exception, of course. … Not to be repeated.’

‘The bomb didn’t explode, then?’ said Mrs Parfitt. ‘I suppose we’d have heard it here if it had done.’

‘Oh no’, said Mr Leicester, repeating the mirthless smile. ‘It didn’t explode. It was – er – disposed of. The process’, he went on hastily, ‘needs specialized knowledge, and the details, I am afraid, are too technical for you to understand.’

Mrs Parfitt looked at him, deeply impressed.

‘How fortunate we are to have you for our warden’, she said.

Crompton was apparently never even considered for the Carnegie Medal. It will therefore never quite win the lustre it should have done. The same is true of the Times Literary Supplement, which never reviewed William.

Kitty Barne, a little later, spared self-important wardens in her anxiety to expose Black Marketeers in Three and a Pigeon (1944), and unlike Crompton combined evacuation with actual bombing, to the extent of bombing her chosen family on the first page, Chapter 1 being duly entitled ‘Our Bomb’ and commencing:

The queer thing about our Bomb, as the Willards always called it, was the way it fell. No one could call it an ordinary bomb, arriving as it did in their safe area unannounced even by the siren’s squall. No one saw the aeroplane or heard it, or even dreamt of it. It stayed up in the clouds somewhere and dropped its bomb like a monkey dropping a nut out of a windy October sky, neither knowing nor caring that the town of Willowfield lay below.

It gave its whistle-crump-thud just as the answer to the sum they had been doing was going up on the board. Tessa Willard was just telling herself ruefully that she’d got it wrong, as usual, when Miss Mills most surprisingly dropped the chalk and cried, ‘What’s that noise?’

No one knew. How could they when they’d never heard anything like it before? No one, that is, but Ivy. She shot up her hand at once (p.169) with ‘That’s a bomb, that is’, and Tessa felt a glow of pride, for Ivy was their own special evacuee who had been with them since the very beginning of the war. She’d gone home for a week or so after she’d been at Willowfield a year and had her home blown to bits in the Battle of Britain, so naturally she knew all about bombs. She had come back from that holiday brimful of stories that everyone wanted to hear and she told them with a sort of extra life – though she had always been lively enough – that had come from dodging in and out of shelters, sleeping behind the white line on the platform of tube stations, and being, as she called it, not half in the war. No wonder she got her scholarship and sailed into the High School and into Tess’s form, six months younger than anyone else there.

Miss Mills believed her.

‘It won’t do no more. It’s gone off’, Ivy reassured her. ‘My dad says –’ but Miss Mills hadn’t time to listen to what dad said. They had a shelter, made at great expense; here was a chance to go and sit in it. Would they line up at once.

They are scarcely in the bomb-shelter when the ‘All Clear’ is sounded, and the teacher returns to the blackboard:

It was a terrible sum about casks of water and casks of porter, and Miss Mills began to work it out on the board. She made a mistake quite early and instead of coming out it grew longer and longer – like the Mouse’s tail in Alice, Tess thought – and her voice grew more and more languid, like the Dormouse before he went into the teapot. ‘If a quarter of water and a quarter of porter –’ she dirged, and started on a second board.

‘Upset, that’s what she is’, whispered Ivy. ‘That four’s got to be a five. Second line, see? The bombs done it. Shall I tell her?’ Over questions of tact like that Ivy generally asked Tess’s advice.

‘No. The bell’s going in half a minute.’

Sure enough the bell went and Miss Mills in a flash of energy took a duster and cleaned both boards. ‘Now I suppose you’ll want to rush off and see where that bomb fell?’ she said, brisk once more. ‘If it’s right in the fields don’t forget we’re collecting acorns and rose-hips.’

Thus ended the first section, as well as the last lesson. But it turns out that the reports are wrong: the bomb has demolished most of Tess Willard’s home. Her brother ascends to what remains of the (p.170) second floor to get his mice, and, as the remains disintegrate, cannot get down. Ivy, taught by experience, climbs up, gives him a necessary arm to hold, and gets him down. Both Crompton and Barne observe children being much less afraid of the bombs than adults, but the neophyte country children are foolhardy where the Londoners are bombwise. Barne had already won the Carnegie Medal for her Visitors from London (1940), a mildly patronising picture of working-class evacuees in general, but she followed what seems too well established a literary genteel convention that the lower classes are always talking. Crompton never suggested that anyone could out-talk William. Both writers, quietly but firmly, showed how illusory was the idea of a ‘safe area’, or place where evacuees would be sent. Barne shows that an under-celebrated role of evacuees could be to guide their innocent hosts when first under bombardment, and reminds us of the role of Monarchy as the super-ego in whose name and from whose inspiration courage was renewed. The brave, stuttering King, gallantly fighting his disability on the wireless to identify with his subjects, is, above all, the King of the bombed:45

Ivy carried out her picture of the King and Queen in their crowns and propped it up on the remains of the gate, a Union Jack on top. ‘That’s what we did with our ruins’, she said. For once Willowfield was coming up to London. It was all glorious.

The effect of bombs, evacuees, new story outlets in adult papers, and so on, was in any case to make for a more sophisticated child reader. The world was being changed around it, and, if Crompton gave it occasional adult eyes through which to judge and to take appropriate precautions, so much the better. Quite apart from the physical suffering, family bereavement, financial disaster and psychological trauma the bombs entailed, the little personal tragedies of Parfitts without any William to rescue them must have been endless, and familiar to many of Crompton’s readers both adult and child. But what was the use of an air-raid shelter (for instance) if one could not get fun out of it?, asked both Crompton and William in somewhat different agendas. There were its own local evacuees, prompted by social considerations, and prompting anti-social ones:

‘I bet that was a screaming bomb’, said William.

‘It was the twelve-thirty letting off steam’, said Mr Brown.

‘Was it?’ said William despondently. ‘It’s been a rotten raid so far.’

(p.171) ‘I wonder if the Bevertons are coming’, said Ethel.

‘The who?’ said Mr Brown, looking up from his paper.

Ethel and Mrs Brown exchanged nervous glances.

‘Yes, didn’t we tell you, dear?’ said Mrs Brown. ‘The Bevertons asked if they could share our shelter and we didn’t like to say “no”.’

‘Good heavens! They’ve got one of their own.’

‘I know, but they say it’s much jollier to be together. They were sharing the Mertons last week, but Bella quarrelled with Dorita so they asked if they could share ours.’

Mr Brown protests unavailingly:

‘why intensify the horrors of war by having them in the air raid shelter?’

‘Perhaps they won’t come, dear’, said Mrs Brown soothingly. ‘After all, it’s some time since the siren went.’

‘They always take a long time getting ready’, said Ethel.

‘Ready? What for?’ said Mr Brown.

‘For air raid shelters’, said Ethel.

‘Gosh’, said William excitedly. ‘I can hear bombs.’

But it was only the Bevertons arriving.

Mrs Beverton was inordinately stout and her daughter was inordinately thin. They were both dressed in the latest in siren suits, and had obviously taken great pains with their make-up and coiffeurs [sic]. Mrs Beverton wore a three-stringed pearl necklace, large jade earrings and four bracelets. She had, moreover, used a new exotic perfume that made William cry out in genuine alarm ‘Gas! Where’s my gas mask?’

‘So sorry we’re late’, she said gaily as she entered. ‘We just had to finish off our new siren suits. We’ve been working on them all day but they just needed the finishing touches, as it were. I had to get out my jewellery, too. I always like to feel I’ve got it with me, as it were. Room for a little one?’

She plunged down on to a small camp mattress next Mr Brown, almost blocking him from view.

‘Not squashing you, I hope?’ she inquired politely.

‘Not at all’, came the muffled voice of Mr Brown from between her and the wall of the shelter.

The girls discuss knitting:

(p.172) ‘Do you like this colour?’ said Ethel, holding up the jumper she was working on.

‘Marvellous!’ said Bella in a deep voice.

‘I want to get it finished by to-morrow. I like the yoke effect, don’t you?’

‘Marvellous!’ said Bella on a higher key.

‘Did you see the cardigan Dolly Clavis knitted, with a hood? She’s going to lend me the pattern. It’ll be useful for cold mornings.’

Marvellous!’ squeaked Bella ecstatically.

‘You’ll have a cup of tea, won’t you, dear?’ said Mrs Brown to her husband.

But Mr Brown wasn’t there. At Bella’s third ‘Marvellous!’ he had crept quietly out of the emergency exit.

As constant readers of Modern Woman, would know, clothes rationing had thrown women back on knitting; and, for all their vanity, Ethel and her friends were making a vocation of it. Crompton being Crompton, she had no intention of benignly leaving it at that: Bella had more to do in the story than merely driving Mr Brown out to take refuge among the bombs. Beneath the bomb-shelter amity, bourgeois rivalries had their claws.

‘Marvellous’ may well have had its vogue among Bromley flappers (as the late teenage women were only just ceasing to be called – the war killed that thirty-year-old label, partly when Ethel and her friends entered its armed forces). Vogue words had been noted by specialists in observation such as A. G. Macdonnell and Agatha Christie depicting flappers of the late 1920s (‘subtle’, ‘wan’ and so on, as comments on everything), and wireless no less than talkies gave this or that word its moment of glory; but, as the war hardened, the services imposed their terminology, and older teenagers surreptitiously borrowed the new language from their pilot-worshipping juniors when not in the forces themselves. If the ‘flapper’ disappeared, the ‘flap’ took on a new lease of life, to be bored became to be ‘browned off’, ‘prang’ conveyed military destruction or damage, ‘a piece of cake’ told of a simple achievement (perhaps scaled down by modesty), an unpleasantly uncertain outlook was ‘ropey’, and something finalised was ‘buttoned up’. The studious could learn the current RAF terms from Biggles in the Orient (1944), where Johns, badly in need of them himself, had set out the results of refresher orientation in a preliminary glossary. No doubt many were widely overused and abused; and Bella’s (p.173) obsession, like those of her flapper precursors, displayed fundamental insecurity. Back at home:

‘I’m sure it’s nice for you to feel that you’re helping mother.’

‘Marvellous!’ said Bella in what she imagined to be a tone of cutting irony.

She took the labels down to the morning-room. She was still feeling aggrieved by her mother’s reference to Ethel Brown. She never had been able to understand what people saw in Ethel Brown. Personally she thought that Ethel looked a perfect sight in the green jumper. She had never liked her hair. Or her voice. Or her eyes …

This was taking the psychology of the egregious interloper deeper than Crompton’s younger readers might expect – though Crompton accustomed them to a no-nonsense analysis of adult motivation, for example the conclusion of this present story when Mr Brown’s annoyance with William over a public disaster evaporates on hearing that its effect is the refusal of the Bevertons to return to the Brown air-raid shelter:46

The look of severity faded from Mr Brown’s face. As far as a face of his particular cast of grimness could be said to shine, it shone.

‘So – she won’t be coming if there’s a raid to-night?’

‘No, dear. But about William –’

‘Yes, yes’ said Mr Brown impatiently. ‘The boy obviously meant no harm. I can’t see what you’re making all this fuss about. Actually, when you come to think of it, he was trying to help. I can’t understand why you’re so hard on the child.’

‘But –’ began Mrs Brown.

‘You’re quite sure that the Bevertons aren’t coming again?’

‘Quite, dear.’

An almost seraphic smile spread over Mr Brown’s countenance.

‘How marvellous!’ he quoted.

Among other blessings to its readers, the William saga from time to time offered a useful survival kit in an adult-ruled world, and it made sense to top it up with particular applications necessitated by the war, when supervision might be less but tempers were edgier.

But what William had actually done was involuntarily to wreck Mrs Beverton’s Exhibition of relics of captured or crashed German aircraft and weaponry by innocently substituting for it discarded (p.174) scrap iron once belonging to Miss Milton. Bella’s alienation had its nominal use in the story to explain her mislabelling of the substitution (‘I recognise every single piece,’ said Miss Milton grimly. ‘There’s the old fish slice that I threw away because it was too small, and that you have the impertinence to label as part of a Dornier wing …’).47 We are not told that the Bevertons are evacuees; but they are evidently neophytes seeking to impress the district by the success of their championship of the war effort in its village vigour, the financial returns to go to the Spitfire Fund. Children all across Britain were running far and wide (and from time to time running their seniors’ patience to its extremities) in order to boost funds for aircraft for Britain’s defence against the bombers; and the Spitfire had proved the symbol which took the public’s heart. Johns perceived as much when he called one revamped First World War story ‘Spitfire Parade’ (Air Stories, March 1940), and he reused the title (though not the cannibalised story) for his book of stories of Biggles’s squadron, published in August 1941. Michael Paris in his thorough Warrior Nation feels that, in Crompton’s William and ARP (1939) and William and the Evacuees (1940), ‘preparations to withstand air attack and the billeting of working-class children from the city … were seen as faintly ridiculous and quite unnecessary activities’.48 Since this is how he saw the Crompton message, it is fair to assume that many wartime readers also saw them this way; but Crompton’s war service as a cripple in the AFS (which she also sent up rotten) reminds us that for her to make fun of war support work does not mean that she thought it unnecessary. But Michael Paris’s impression is helpful: Crompton’s contemporaries may also have read her meaning as much more destructive than she intended. Modern Woman may have had private (or even official) protests; it may not have thought of the point itself (after all, it had printed the story with no obvious sanitary dilution). But its March 1941 number, the second next, included a sequel to the Beverton débâcle, which would presumably have been printed for February had Crompton originally intended it. In any case, William has one of his attacks of conscience, as usual with cataclysmic results:49

Mrs Beverton’s cousin had made £2 6s. 10 ½d. [slightly more than £2.34: characteristically; Crompton could not resist the touch of someone having contributeda halfpenny whether in whole oraspart of their charity] by her collection. Mrs Beverton, though perhaps she would not have made quite so much as that, would still have made something. … William, whose efforts to bring about a successful (p.175) conclusion of the war had been unrelaxing if not always fortunate, felt it intolerable that he should have been the means of robbing the Spitfire Fund of a possible £2 6s. 10 ½d. He felt like a boy under a curse. For the first time since the poem had been set as a holiday task by a callous form master, he appreciated the feelings of ‘The Ancient Mariner’.… But William was not a boy to labour under a sense of guilt without doing something to extirpate it.

If any comment had been made which Crompton received or saw, implying that her satire endangered the intake of the Spitfire Fund, this was her impish amende honorable, down to the last ½d. William is successful in fund-raising by softening up Mrs Bott, unintentionally, in accidentally leaving an UNEXPLODED BOMB sign outside her Hall, and gaining £3 from her benevolent rebound when it proves an apparent illusion. And, as John Rowe Townsend pointed out,50 ‘William was promptly adopted by his contemporaries, perhaps because he was the daredevil that every small boy likes to think himself’ – and because his daydreams were those of countless other children: Crompton pre-eminently catered to the child’s imagination by being able to imagine it – ‘always getting into scrapes, and often scoring off the grown-ups’ – frequently unwittingly –

in the process of getting out of them. The William stories offer to young readers a happy blend of identification and condescension; they can at the same time imagine themselves to be William and yet see him from the outside as a small boy doing ridiculous and laughable things. William in fact is a most effective character – though not particularly lifelike, for no real boy could have his mixture of imagination and eloquence with extreme naivety.

So far as he goes, Townsend is impressive: his last comment suggests that, whatever his acquaintance with small boys, he can have known few politicians. But William is not in all respects a single character: just as Crompton kept him at 11 for fifty years while his world changed so drastically around him, she altered some of his traits as it suited the purpose of her story. His intelligence, for instance, is a variable, although his ingenuity is not. In the war stories, he has a covert propaganda function. He is what Britain is fighting for; he is also Britain fighting. The symbol of the UK battling on its own in 1940–1 is Low’s soldier; it is also Winston Churchill; it is also William Brown. He was always his own person, self-reliant in a hostile adult world with but few and seldom long-lasting allies from (p.176) it. He always had to be his own guru, and he came into his own as the guru was fading from the youthful literary scene. He never was an evacuee – even if he found himself at one point dragooned into turning his fellow-children from the village into evacuees, much to the fury of their mothers, whose arrival to minister to the little strangers brought them instead face to face with their own. But he flourished amid the bombs on Bromley and the duds in his village, and his role model remained triumphant: so he had to help the Spitfire Fund, not simply subvert it. Crompton succeeded, not by pretending to be on the child’s side – she is an adult, writing from an adult’s perspective and making adult’s points which a child feels adult by sharing – but by fairly clear indications that in child–adult war she would not pretend adults were necessarily moral superiors to children. Hitler was an adult; Churchill with his baby face and lisp, the King with his stutter, the villagers dressed up in their new uniforms and newer duties – all were triumphantly childlike. And William was the best-known child in Second World War fiction.

Yet history insists on exceptions to (nearly) everything, even the popularity of William in children’s literature. Betty Blyth, evacuated from the Edward Worledge Central School at St Olaves, Norfolk (housed at the Hospital School since Chamberlain had proclaimed war), complained fifty years later that, when placed at the village school in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, ‘initially one of our Yarmouth teachers, Mr Sykes, took our class. We didn’t learn much as he spent much of the time reading Just William books to himself and ignored us.’ On the other hand, to explain why a schoolteacher was sent 100 miles to preside over a class while reading William stories to himself rather than to them would seem to require the imagination of a Richmal Crompton, which alas is given to few historians. Or, thinking about the value of her stories as accounts of England in the Second World War, one should say ‘to few other historians’.51

But inevitably Crompton, trained as a teacher, was still producing her pupils. The most startling case of an evacuee to whom she would prove a guru surfaced in 1941 when Nelson’s, still wisely printing in Edinburgh, confronted a book-length manuscript begun when its author was fourteen and taken, partly written, to South Wales when she was removed there on war’s outbreak. The Swish of the Curtain used its author’s memories of amateur dramatics in Colchester, probably sharpened by conclusion and revision in remote exile. Debt to Crompton proclaimed itself in the first pages as the Swish children squirmingly responded to the gushing Mrs Porter-Smith, whose ‘dear laddy’ and head-patting echoed the ‘laddies dear’ and head-pressing (p.177) ‘against her perfumed, befrilled bosom’ of Mrs de Vere Carter who lived to rue the day she conscripted William into the Band of Hope in his very first book, Just William. But Pamela Brown’s story quickly made its own way, with spirit. Arguments over reduction of size would seem to have delayed publication too late in the Christmas season to gain many reviews apart from the Times Literary Supplement, which gave her New Year honours on 27 December:

For an author only 15 years old [16 now] PAMELA BROWN has extraordinary smoothness and vigour – in fact a reader of ‘THE SWISH OF THE CURTAIN’ (Nelson 7s. 6d.) would never guess her to be other than a practised grown-up writer. She tells of the doings of seven young amateurs who organize their own dramatic company; she is obviously an eager lover of this sort of thing herself, and if she has managed to get half as much amusement out of it as her characters do, she has done very well.

The pre-war beginning made it a pre-war story (although the children could have been inspired by Stratford Shakespeare throughout the war, as they are in the book, thanks to a somewhat improbable Bishop). The profits sent the author to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she advanced far enough to narrate her book in John Keir Cross’s three-instalment BBC version in 1944, for which a sequel, Maddy Alone, was commissioned, book (1945) following broadcast. By this stage Pamela Brown was her own guru, and Noel Streatfeild did not look below her own high standards if she picked up a hint or two from the actress-author for her 1944 offering, Curtain Up.

Notes

(1.) Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S.Lewis ([1974] 1988), 238. The date is conjectural, but follows the authors’ juxtaposition of the document-extracts. In this first draft, the central child is again the youngest, but he is male and is called Peter. There are many versions of the carol, but this seems the most appropriate; it is as I have heard it sung, and differs from printed versions I have seen.

(2.) Richard Perceval Graves, Richard Hughes (1994), 277–84. In fact, when the evacuees arrived, Frances Hughes found she was pregnant with their fourth child, to be named Owain. When the evacuees had returned to Birkenhead, Hughes followed the rest of his family to Laugharne, where they were joined by the Dylan Thomases; their late-night conversations there inspired Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.

(3.) Put Out More Flags (1942), 7. The sage, unidentified, is quoted from Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, a fashionable work among occidentals at this time. John Blowers of Lowestoft, before he was evacuated to Worksop, Nottinghamshire, ‘was fourteen in 1940 and old enough to take a keen interest in following the (p.178) course of the War. So much so that a highlight of each week was the day when, on my way home from school, I would collect my copy of War Illustrated’ (Christopher J. Brooks, ed. and comp., East Coast Evacuees (2001), 26). War Illustrated was a breezy, sinew-stiffening, very well illustrated but judicious account of the war’s progress edited by Sir John Hammerton, friend and future biographer of Arthur Mee of the Children’s Encyclopaedia, Children’s Newspaper and a forest of improving titles including Why We Are at War (1940). War Illustrated had occasional awkward moments, notably when the issue of 31 May 1940 featured in full panoply on its back cover ‘Our War Album. – 39. The King of the Belgians. King Leopold III’ and the next issue, 7 June 1940, headed Hammerton’s editorial ‘TREACHERY MOST FOUL: MAY 28, 1940 Belgium’s Traitor King as Hitler’s Latest Ally’. The dates illustrated the problems of production.

(4.) Leach, in B. S. Johnson, The Evacuees (1968), 170, 172. Walker, in Ben Wicks (ed.), The Day They Took the Children ([1989] 1990), 39–40. See also Christopher D. McGimpsey (ed.), Bombs on Belfast: The Blitz 1941 (1984), which pays due tribute to the Eire fire brigades sent north during the bombing in reply to Northern Ireland’s plea. For Belfast Catholic disaffection, see Brian Moore, The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1961).

(5.) B. S. Johnson, The Evacuees, 153.

(6.) Crompton, ‘William and the Black-Out’ (Happy Mag, February 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 199. Holman, The Evacuation (1995), 61–2.

(7.) Magnet 1,671 ‘A Black-Out Blunder’. Coker of the Fifth whacks a temporary master (and burglar) Mr Lamb in error for Wingate, Captain of the School, for which Vernon-Smith, also illegally out in the blackout, is almost expelled. On Hinton, see Mary Cadogan, Frank Richards (1988), 154–5.

(8.) Johns, King of the Commandos (1943), 18. There was at least one Sea Scout at Dunkirk – the future Captain Gerald Ashcroft, who served as deck-hand under Charles Herbert Lightoller, formerly Second Officer on the Titanic, who with his son Roger (later killed on active duty) got 130 men back to Ramsgate from Dunkirk in his 60-foot yacht Sundowner, largely by taking evasive action from hostile aircraft on lines he had learned from his son Brian (bomber command, killed on a Wilhelmshaven raid early in the war [Patrick Stenson, ‘Lights’: The Odyssey of C. H. Lightoller (1984), 300–12]).

(9.) Johns, King of the Commandos, 14, 19–20, 49–50.

(10.) Waugh, Put Out More Flags ([1942] 1943), 67–8. This, the wartime Penguin edition, must have been much the most influential with its sale of thousands of copies, many sent on to the armed forces, as encouraged by the publishers. Waugh seems to have corrected it: his initial plural, ‘the Connollies’, now became ‘Connollys’ with no other alteration to them, first introduced as ‘one leering, one lowering, and one drooling’. The Times Literary Supplement (21 March 1942) feared the work’s probable acceptance as contemporary history and savagely termed the Connollys ‘loathsome. Indeed, it is these children who yield the most coherent and successful example of his art’, although the Irish novelist Kate O’Brien did not find the idea of Basil Seal blackmailing the billeted by assigning and, after payment, removing them to be ‘very convincing, nor are the three children credibly written’ Spectator (3 April 1942). These and other notices may be conveniently found in Martin Stannard (ed.), Evelyn Waugh – the Critical Heritage (1984).

(11.) I am deeply grateful for the historical and moral aid given to me by Colin Ryder Richardson in letting me know of his reading matter and interests in answer (10 June 2005) to my query, also enclosing his press release (10 March 2005) on the sinking of the City of Benares, for which see also News of the World, 10 July 2005, and Ralph Barker, Children of the Benares ([1987] 1990), 88–9, 101–2, 123–7, 145, (p.179) 160, 165, 224. Falkirk High School [1985] made a useful project of the City of Benares, chiefly on the children in the lifeboat for eight days, on whom Elizabeth Hawkins based her inspiring novel Sea of Peril (1995). Elspeth Huxley, Atlantic Ordeal – the Story of Mary Cornish (1941), 42, shows how a nurse tried to maintain morale of the children in her lifeboat over the eight days by telling them stories of a secret-service-thriller variety based on John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps and the ‘Bulldog Drummond’ books by ‘Sapper’ (Herman Cyril McNeile). The popular bourgeois suspicion of comics was mildly articulated by M.M. Lewis, Director of the Institute of Education, University of Nottingham, when he addressed the School Library Association on 29 December 1953 on ‘Children’s Reading and Illiteracy’: ‘With regard to the reading of comics it is often said that the children who read comics must be the children who do not read other literature. I am afraid that is not true’ (p. 5). ‘I am afraid’ is instructive.

(12.) Shead, They Sailed by Night, 16.

(13.) Travers, I Go by Sea, I Go by Land, 27, 49. Travers insisted that the incidents and characters were true but made no such claim for the diary; she was in any case a fantasist on the details of her own life. She said that she altered personal and place names so as not to give information to the enemy, in which hope she was probably successful. Penelope Hughes, Richard Hughes (1984), 6–7.

(14.) Hughes, Don’t Blame Me!, 98. ‘Home’ was not included in the posthumous The Wonder-Dog: The Collected Children’s Stories of Richard Hughes (1977), the last lines of whose preface he dictated from his death-bed to conclude the part he had already written and whose choice was therefore probably his. ‘Home’ may have been dropped because of the Times Literary Supplement’s belief that it was too mystical for children (14 December 1940). ‘The Wishing-Shell’ and ‘A Box of Matches’ were also dropped, also unjustifiably. The Wonder-Dog includes the sequel ‘Gertrude’s Child’ to ‘The Doll and the Mermaid’, which had started as the wooden doll in the chamberpot.

(15.) Peter Thomas, Richard Hughes (1973), in the ‘Writers of Wales’ series, begins with quotation of these and other passages from the Brashfield Address to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1969.

(16.) Put Out More Flags (1943) 75.

(17.) Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (1966), 42. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), 80–1.

(18.) Blyton, The Adventurous Four, 140.

(19.) The Children of Kidillin, 3, 24, 26.

(20.) Ibid.Great Galleon

(21.) The late Rev. William Mahon Barbour of Limavady told me of this, it being his grandmother.

(22.) Kyle, Visitors from England ([1941] 1962), 2, 3–4, 5. Kyle, The Seven Sapphires ([1944] 1962), 125.

(23.) Shead, They Sailed by Night, 8–9.

(24.) Johns, Spitfire Parade ([1941] 1960), 124, 131. For the original story, ‘The Funk’, see Biggles of the Camel Squadron (1934), renamed Biggles of the Fighter Squadron (1992), chapter 6.

(25.) I Go by Sea, I Go by Land, 4. Crompton, ‘A Present for a Little Girl’, Modern Woman (April 1942) and William Carries On, 209, 230, 232.

(26.) Crompton, ‘William and the Bird Man’, Happy Mag (April 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 76–7.

(p.180) (27.) Crompton, ‘William Takes Charge’, Happy Mag (May 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 13, 13–14.

(28.) Crompton, ‘Claude Finds a Companion’, Modern Woman (April 1941) and William Does His Bit, 235. The Outlaws are not pro-evacuee necessarily (though in general they seem to be, mildly); but three of them are absent, and William is present but in internal disruption, following their making of ‘Sardine Toffee’. Norman Dale, Secret Service (1943), 9, 28, 8. Secret Service proved to be the first of a series of child thrillers about Peter and Ginger, so, like Lewis’s Narnia series, Dale’s was a long-term effect of the evacuation experience. So were Blyton’s Five, Saville’s Lone Piners and Kyle’s Peter and Margot.

(29.) ‘William and the Four-Forty’, Home Notes (28 May 1948) and William – the Bold (July 1950). ‘Bill Smugs’ (a.k.a. Bill Cunningham) marries Alison Mannering, mother of Philip and Dinah, at Lucy-Ann Trent’s suggestion made at the end of The Ship of Adventure (1950), the marriage taking place before the next book, The Circus of Adventure (1952). Psychologically the step is interesting, as an indication of Blyton’s desire to legitimise the introduction of a stepfather into her family, before the tribunal which she saw as superior to all others: her books and their readers. But the series declined markedly in the latter book and its only sequel. For Eli, see 1 Samuel 3 and 4. On Aslan, Sara Dudley Edwards (C. S. Lewis issue, Chesterton Review 17 (1991), 429–35). For Tolkien’s response to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lancelyn Green and Hooper, Lewis, 241. In the Narnia series, Reepi-cheep comes into his own in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), Puddleglum in The Silver Chair (1953), and Bree in The Horse and His Boy (1953), while Uncle Andrew pollutes The Magician’s Nephew (1955), and the Ape (evidently suggested by the Belfastspeak ‘Pape’) sparks off The Last Battle (1956). Similarly, the White Witch is both Hitler and Antichrist. The Roman Catholic Tolkien’s dislike of the Narnia series and its allegories may have hardened Lewis in his determination to revive his ancient hostilities against the Pope (or Papes).

(30.) Hughes, in addition to having written with credible realism of children in High Wind in Jamaica, had also written his most successful play A Comedy of Good and Evil (first produced in 1924), in which a beautiful child devil entraps the soul of a saintly clergyman but then insists on saving him to her own self-disgust and the scorn of the sanctimonious angel. The Times Literary Supplement (14 December 1940) asserted that his ‘impish and unmoral humour is found in many of the situations [of Don’t Blame Me!] and appeals greatly to the primitive instincts of children; it is a quality which the author shares (and particularly is this noticeable in the animal stories) with the earliest writers of folklore’. The point is a good one, if we forget the imbecility of ‘the earliest writers of folklore’ when first oral narrators is intended – but scholarship of the 1940s had little respect for oral transmission.

(31.) Adventurous Four, 94, 155–6.

(32.) King of the Commandos, 137–8, 154, 156, 161, 167–90. It is the French Canadian Trapper Troublay who makes the issue clear(‘“If those swines lay a finger on that girl, one finger only, I’ll – I’ll –”. Something seemed to stick in his throat’ (161)).

(33.) Lewis, ‘Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said’, New York Times Book Review (18 November 1956), Of Other Worlds, 38.

(34.) Lancelyn Green and Hooper, Lewis, 241. Lucy and the Faun also have antecedents in Alice’s relations with the White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland) and the White Knight (Through the Looking-Glass).

(35.) Wallace Grevatt, BBC Children’s Hour (1988), is invaluable but ill-assembled and, alas, unindexed. The element of magic which still clung around wireless in these years, more especially for children unfamiliar with it suddenly encountering (p.181) it, increased Uncle Mac’s guru potential: the magic, so-called or otherwise, of dramatised John Masefield for children or Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows made McCulloch magic’s ultimate arbiter – and, by one single final word, introduced by his decision, he internationalised his audience and taught them never to think of other children as their enemies: ‘Goodnight, children – everywhere!’ The use of favourite German stories by anti-Nazi writers, such as Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, reinforced the point, also one that Brent-Dyer was making.

(36.) Ray, The Blyton Phenomenon (1982), 159. Adventurous Four, 67–8.

(37.) Adventurous Four, 103, 177, 188, 188–9, 189, 80–1, 88–9.

(38.) Castle of Adventure, 237, 303.

(39.) Valley of Adventure, 322. A remarkable touch in this story is the old Austrian woman’s affection for Lucy-Ann, whom she identifies with a granddaughter removed and apparently killed by the Nazis (in a concentration camp?):

‘So like this little girl, with red hair and a sweet face. She lived with us. And one day the enemy came and took her away and we never saw her again. So now my wife sees her little lost one in your sister. You must excuse her, for maybe she really thinks her small Greta has come back.’ (p. 248)

Blyton’s indirect use of war must have given many readers their first real sense of the impact of Nazism on family life. It’s possible that she intended a racial implication, the child’s hair deriving from intermarriage of the old couple’s own offspring with a gypsy. On her friend/maid Mary, see Stoney, Blyton, 121, and Imogen Smallwood, A Childhood at Green Hedges (1989), 24–5, 30, 53, 94, 154. Five Go Adventuring Again (July 1943), 144–5.

(40.) Atkinson produced one of these a year throughout the war. As if in compensation for its exclusion, her girls are very violent in their mutual hostilities.

(41.) For Hugh Pollock, see Stoney, Blyton; also George Greenfield, Enid Blyton (1998), 57–8.

(42.) Blyton frequently asserts the fear in the heart of the child heroes. On Kenneth Darrell Waters, Smallwood, Childhood is instructive and disturbing.

(43.) Terence Molloy, Eve Garnett (2002), 64–5, 72–3. Hugh Brogan, Life of Arthur Ransome (1984), 373–5. Wayne G. Hammond, Ransome Bibliography, 123–4. Mabel Esther Allan, To Be an Author (1982), 19, 21–3.

(44.) Crompton, ‘William and the Bomb’, Modern Woman (June 1941), William Carries On, 46–7, 48, 52, 54–6, 56–7, 59–60.

(45.) Three and a Pigeon, 7–9, 25.

(46.) Crompton, ‘William – the Salvage Collector’, Modern Woman (January 1941) and William Does His Bit, 167, 168–9, 169–71, 172, 186.

(47.) Ibid.

(48.) Warrior Nation, 187.

(49.) Crompton, ‘William Helps the Spitfire Fund’, Modern Woman (March 1941) and William Does His Bit, 192.

(50.) Townsend, Written for Children ([1965] 1983), 191.

(51.) Other reminiscent testimony is less disconcerting. ‘The popular books in the library were Just William …’ (Joe Ashton, ‘Hitler Did Us a Favour’). ‘When I was old enough to belong to the library a new world opened for me. I read my first ‘‘William’’ book and went around for days wearing a bemused grin because I had discovered something wonderful’: Leslie Thomas, ‘What do Whistles Mean?’, in David Childs and Janet Wharton (eds), Children in War (1989), 121, 180.

Notes:

(1.) Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C.S.Lewis ([1974] 1988), 238. The date is conjectural, but follows the authors’ juxtaposition of the document-extracts. In this first draft, the central child is again the youngest, but he is male and is called Peter. There are many versions of the carol, but this seems the most appropriate; it is as I have heard it sung, and differs from printed versions I have seen.

(2.) Richard Perceval Graves, Richard Hughes (1994), 277–84. In fact, when the evacuees arrived, Frances Hughes found she was pregnant with their fourth child, to be named Owain. When the evacuees had returned to Birkenhead, Hughes followed the rest of his family to Laugharne, where they were joined by the Dylan Thomases; their late-night conversations there inspired Thomas’s Under Milk Wood.

(3.) Put Out More Flags (1942), 7. The sage, unidentified, is quoted from Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, a fashionable work among occidentals at this time. John Blowers of Lowestoft, before he was evacuated to Worksop, Nottinghamshire, ‘was fourteen in 1940 and old enough to take a keen interest in following the (p.178) course of the War. So much so that a highlight of each week was the day when, on my way home from school, I would collect my copy of War Illustrated’ (Christopher J. Brooks, ed. and comp., East Coast Evacuees (2001), 26). War Illustrated was a breezy, sinew-stiffening, very well illustrated but judicious account of the war’s progress edited by Sir John Hammerton, friend and future biographer of Arthur Mee of the Children’s Encyclopaedia, Children’s Newspaper and a forest of improving titles including Why We Are at War (1940). War Illustrated had occasional awkward moments, notably when the issue of 31 May 1940 featured in full panoply on its back cover ‘Our War Album. – 39. The King of the Belgians. King Leopold III’ and the next issue, 7 June 1940, headed Hammerton’s editorial ‘TREACHERY MOST FOUL: MAY 28, 1940 Belgium’s Traitor King as Hitler’s Latest Ally’. The dates illustrated the problems of production.

(4.) Leach, in B. S. Johnson, The Evacuees (1968), 170, 172. Walker, in Ben Wicks (ed.), The Day They Took the Children ([1989] 1990), 39–40. See also Christopher D. McGimpsey (ed.), Bombs on Belfast: The Blitz 1941 (1984), which pays due tribute to the Eire fire brigades sent north during the bombing in reply to Northern Ireland’s plea. For Belfast Catholic disaffection, see Brian Moore, The Emperor of Ice-Cream (1961).

(5.) B. S. Johnson, The Evacuees, 153.

(6.) Crompton, ‘William and the Black-Out’ (Happy Mag, February 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 199. Holman, The Evacuation (1995), 61–2.

(7.) Magnet 1,671 ‘A Black-Out Blunder’. Coker of the Fifth whacks a temporary master (and burglar) Mr Lamb in error for Wingate, Captain of the School, for which Vernon-Smith, also illegally out in the blackout, is almost expelled. On Hinton, see Mary Cadogan, Frank Richards (1988), 154–5.

(8.) Johns, King of the Commandos (1943), 18. There was at least one Sea Scout at Dunkirk – the future Captain Gerald Ashcroft, who served as deck-hand under Charles Herbert Lightoller, formerly Second Officer on the Titanic, who with his son Roger (later killed on active duty) got 130 men back to Ramsgate from Dunkirk in his 60-foot yacht Sundowner, largely by taking evasive action from hostile aircraft on lines he had learned from his son Brian (bomber command, killed on a Wilhelmshaven raid early in the war [Patrick Stenson, ‘Lights’: The Odyssey of C. H. Lightoller (1984), 300–12]).

(9.) Johns, King of the Commandos, 14, 19–20, 49–50.

(10.) Waugh, Put Out More Flags ([1942] 1943), 67–8. This, the wartime Penguin edition, must have been much the most influential with its sale of thousands of copies, many sent on to the armed forces, as encouraged by the publishers. Waugh seems to have corrected it: his initial plural, ‘the Connollies’, now became ‘Connollys’ with no other alteration to them, first introduced as ‘one leering, one lowering, and one drooling’. The Times Literary Supplement (21 March 1942) feared the work’s probable acceptance as contemporary history and savagely termed the Connollys ‘loathsome. Indeed, it is these children who yield the most coherent and successful example of his art’, although the Irish novelist Kate O’Brien did not find the idea of Basil Seal blackmailing the billeted by assigning and, after payment, removing them to be ‘very convincing, nor are the three children credibly written’ Spectator (3 April 1942). These and other notices may be conveniently found in Martin Stannard (ed.), Evelyn Waugh – the Critical Heritage (1984).

(11.) I am deeply grateful for the historical and moral aid given to me by Colin Ryder Richardson in letting me know of his reading matter and interests in answer (10 June 2005) to my query, also enclosing his press release (10 March 2005) on the sinking of the City of Benares, for which see also News of the World, 10 July 2005, and Ralph Barker, Children of the Benares ([1987] 1990), 88–9, 101–2, 123–7, 145, (p.179) 160, 165, 224. Falkirk High School [1985] made a useful project of the City of Benares, chiefly on the children in the lifeboat for eight days, on whom Elizabeth Hawkins based her inspiring novel Sea of Peril (1995). Elspeth Huxley, Atlantic Ordeal – the Story of Mary Cornish (1941), 42, shows how a nurse tried to maintain morale of the children in her lifeboat over the eight days by telling them stories of a secret-service-thriller variety based on John Buchan’s The Thirty-Nine Steps and the ‘Bulldog Drummond’ books by ‘Sapper’ (Herman Cyril McNeile). The popular bourgeois suspicion of comics was mildly articulated by M.M. Lewis, Director of the Institute of Education, University of Nottingham, when he addressed the School Library Association on 29 December 1953 on ‘Children’s Reading and Illiteracy’: ‘With regard to the reading of comics it is often said that the children who read comics must be the children who do not read other literature. I am afraid that is not true’ (p. 5). ‘I am afraid’ is instructive.

(12.) Shead, They Sailed by Night, 16.

(13.) Travers, I Go by Sea, I Go by Land, 27, 49. Travers insisted that the incidents and characters were true but made no such claim for the diary; she was in any case a fantasist on the details of her own life. She said that she altered personal and place names so as not to give information to the enemy, in which hope she was probably successful. Penelope Hughes, Richard Hughes (1984), 6–7.

(14.) Hughes, Don’t Blame Me!, 98. ‘Home’ was not included in the posthumous The Wonder-Dog: The Collected Children’s Stories of Richard Hughes (1977), the last lines of whose preface he dictated from his death-bed to conclude the part he had already written and whose choice was therefore probably his. ‘Home’ may have been dropped because of the Times Literary Supplement’s belief that it was too mystical for children (14 December 1940). ‘The Wishing-Shell’ and ‘A Box of Matches’ were also dropped, also unjustifiably. The Wonder-Dog includes the sequel ‘Gertrude’s Child’ to ‘The Doll and the Mermaid’, which had started as the wooden doll in the chamberpot.

(15.) Peter Thomas, Richard Hughes (1973), in the ‘Writers of Wales’ series, begins with quotation of these and other passages from the Brashfield Address to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1969.

(16.) Put Out More Flags (1943) 75.

(17.) Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories (1966), 42. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), 80–1.

(18.) Blyton, The Adventurous Four, 140.

(19.) The Children of Kidillin, 3, 24, 26.

(20.) Ibid.Great Galleon

(21.) The late Rev. William Mahon Barbour of Limavady told me of this, it being his grandmother.

(22.) Kyle, Visitors from England ([1941] 1962), 2, 3–4, 5. Kyle, The Seven Sapphires ([1944] 1962), 125.

(23.) Shead, They Sailed by Night, 8–9.

(24.) Johns, Spitfire Parade ([1941] 1960), 124, 131. For the original story, ‘The Funk’, see Biggles of the Camel Squadron (1934), renamed Biggles of the Fighter Squadron (1992), chapter 6.

(25.) I Go by Sea, I Go by Land, 4. Crompton, ‘A Present for a Little Girl’, Modern Woman (April 1942) and William Carries On, 209, 230, 232.

(26.) Crompton, ‘William and the Bird Man’, Happy Mag (April 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 76–7.

(p.180) (27.) Crompton, ‘William Takes Charge’, Happy Mag (May 1940) and William and the Evacuees, 13, 13–14.

(28.) Crompton, ‘Claude Finds a Companion’, Modern Woman (April 1941) and William Does His Bit, 235. The Outlaws are not pro-evacuee necessarily (though in general they seem to be, mildly); but three of them are absent, and William is present but in internal disruption, following their making of ‘Sardine Toffee’. Norman Dale, Secret Service (1943), 9, 28, 8. Secret Service proved to be the first of a series of child thrillers about Peter and Ginger, so, like Lewis’s Narnia series, Dale’s was a long-term effect of the evacuation experience. So were Blyton’s Five, Saville’s Lone Piners and Kyle’s Peter and Margot.

(29.) ‘William and the Four-Forty’, Home Notes (28 May 1948) and William – the Bold (July 1950). ‘Bill Smugs’ (a.k.a. Bill Cunningham) marries Alison Mannering, mother of Philip and Dinah, at Lucy-Ann Trent’s suggestion made at the end of The Ship of Adventure (1950), the marriage taking place before the next book, The Circus of Adventure (1952). Psychologically the step is interesting, as an indication of Blyton’s desire to legitimise the introduction of a stepfather into her family, before the tribunal which she saw as superior to all others: her books and their readers. But the series declined markedly in the latter book and its only sequel. For Eli, see 1 Samuel 3 and 4. On Aslan, Sara Dudley Edwards (C. S. Lewis issue, Chesterton Review 17 (1991), 429–35). For Tolkien’s response to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lancelyn Green and Hooper, Lewis, 241. In the Narnia series, Reepi-cheep comes into his own in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), Puddleglum in The Silver Chair (1953), and Bree in The Horse and His Boy (1953), while Uncle Andrew pollutes The Magician’s Nephew (1955), and the Ape (evidently suggested by the Belfastspeak ‘Pape’) sparks off The Last Battle (1956). Similarly, the White Witch is both Hitler and Antichrist. The Roman Catholic Tolkien’s dislike of the Narnia series and its allegories may have hardened Lewis in his determination to revive his ancient hostilities against the Pope (or Papes).

(30.) Hughes, in addition to having written with credible realism of children in High Wind in Jamaica, had also written his most successful play A Comedy of Good and Evil (first produced in 1924), in which a beautiful child devil entraps the soul of a saintly clergyman but then insists on saving him to her own self-disgust and the scorn of the sanctimonious angel. The Times Literary Supplement (14 December 1940) asserted that his ‘impish and unmoral humour is found in many of the situations [of Don’t Blame Me!] and appeals greatly to the primitive instincts of children; it is a quality which the author shares (and particularly is this noticeable in the animal stories) with the earliest writers of folklore’. The point is a good one, if we forget the imbecility of ‘the earliest writers of folklore’ when first oral narrators is intended – but scholarship of the 1940s had little respect for oral transmission.

(31.) Adventurous Four, 94, 155–6.

(32.) King of the Commandos, 137–8, 154, 156, 161, 167–90. It is the French Canadian Trapper Troublay who makes the issue clear(‘“If those swines lay a finger on that girl, one finger only, I’ll – I’ll –”. Something seemed to stick in his throat’ (161)).

(33.) Lewis, ‘Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said’, New York Times Book Review (18 November 1956), Of Other Worlds, 38.

(34.) Lancelyn Green and Hooper, Lewis, 241. Lucy and the Faun also have antecedents in Alice’s relations with the White Rabbit (Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland) and the White Knight (Through the Looking-Glass).

(35.) Wallace Grevatt, BBC Children’s Hour (1988), is invaluable but ill-assembled and, alas, unindexed. The element of magic which still clung around wireless in these years, more especially for children unfamiliar with it suddenly encountering (p.181) it, increased Uncle Mac’s guru potential: the magic, so-called or otherwise, of dramatised John Masefield for children or Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows made McCulloch magic’s ultimate arbiter – and, by one single final word, introduced by his decision, he internationalised his audience and taught them never to think of other children as their enemies: ‘Goodnight, children – everywhere!’ The use of favourite German stories by anti-Nazi writers, such as Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, reinforced the point, also one that Brent-Dyer was making.

(36.) Ray, The Blyton Phenomenon (1982), 159. Adventurous Four, 67–8.

(37.) Adventurous Four, 103, 177, 188, 188–9, 189, 80–1, 88–9.

(38.) Castle of Adventure, 237, 303.

(39.) Valley of Adventure, 322. A remarkable touch in this story is the old Austrian woman’s affection for Lucy-Ann, whom she identifies with a granddaughter removed and apparently killed by the Nazis (in a concentration camp?):

‘So like this little girl, with red hair and a sweet face. She lived with us. And one day the enemy came and took her away and we never saw her again. So now my wife sees her little lost one in your sister. You must excuse her, for maybe she really thinks her small Greta has come back.’ (p. 248)

Blyton’s indirect use of war must have given many readers their first real sense of the impact of Nazism on family life. It’s possible that she intended a racial implication, the child’s hair deriving from intermarriage of the old couple’s own offspring with a gypsy. On her friend/maid Mary, see Stoney, Blyton, 121, and Imogen Smallwood, A Childhood at Green Hedges (1989), 24–5, 30, 53, 94, 154. Five Go Adventuring Again (July 1943), 144–5.

(40.) Atkinson produced one of these a year throughout the war. As if in compensation for its exclusion, her girls are very violent in their mutual hostilities.

(41.) For Hugh Pollock, see Stoney, Blyton; also George Greenfield, Enid Blyton (1998), 57–8.

(42.) Blyton frequently asserts the fear in the heart of the child heroes. On Kenneth Darrell Waters, Smallwood, Childhood is instructive and disturbing.

(43.) Terence Molloy, Eve Garnett (2002), 64–5, 72–3. Hugh Brogan, Life of Arthur Ransome (1984), 373–5. Wayne G. Hammond, Ransome Bibliography, 123–4. Mabel Esther Allan, To Be an Author (1982), 19, 21–3.

(44.) Crompton, ‘William and the Bomb’, Modern Woman (June 1941), William Carries On, 46–7, 48, 52, 54–6, 56–7, 59–60.

(45.) Three and a Pigeon, 7–9, 25.

(46.) Crompton, ‘William – the Salvage Collector’, Modern Woman (January 1941) and William Does His Bit, 167, 168–9, 169–71, 172, 186.

(48.) Warrior Nation, 187.

(49.) Crompton, ‘William Helps the Spitfire Fund’, Modern Woman (March 1941) and William Does His Bit, 192.

(50.) Townsend, Written for Children ([1965] 1983), 191.

(51.) Other reminiscent testimony is less disconcerting. ‘The popular books in the library were Just William …’ (Joe Ashton, ‘Hitler Did Us a Favour’). ‘When I was old enough to belong to the library a new world opened for me. I read my first ‘‘William’’ book and went around for days wearing a bemused grin because I had discovered something wonderful’: Leslie Thomas, ‘What do Whistles Mean?’, in David Childs and Janet Wharton (eds), Children in War (1989), 121, 180.