Evacuating children to the country was seen as a kind and protective action to prevent them being killed or injured in the blitz. However, for some children, the move could be negative and frightening whilst for those such as William Beech it would prove a beneficial event.
When the evacuees first arrive in Little Weirwold it is a massive change for many “They all looked bewildered and exhausted”. For many children the countryside was quite foreign to them. Tom exclaims to Willie “‘Ent you never seen a cow?” There are many differences between the city and the country and all need to be adjusted to. The noise level and number of people around are two things that cause Tom to feel “totally dazed” on arrival in London.
All families are unique but although this can be a positive, for some it may prove negative. Despite missing his parents, Zach had a fairly happy time with Dr and Mrs Little. Robert and Christine King were, sadly, made to work too hard to the detriment of their schooling. “Robert and Christine’s mother … and took them back to London. … she felt they were being used as unpaid labour”. For Willie it was an extremely positive experience. Tom treats him as a caring parent and by the end of the novel – without even thinking – Will says “I’m sorry, Dad” and Tom is thrilled too “ “He called me Dad” … overwhelmed with happiness”
For a child such as Willie, the contrast between home and Little Weirwold, the contrast between his mother and Mr Tom could not have been more extreme. His mother beat him only “soft beatings” and saw him as being “wicked …[ enough to be] sent to an ‘ome fer bad boys”. Willie arrives at Little Weirwold his body is covered with the evidence of his mother’s abuse. “a large multicoloured bruise on his shin and a swollen red sore beside … Willie’s arms and legs were covered in bruises, weals and sores”. Tom, on the other hand, doesn’t “know nothin’ about children” but does “know enuff not to beat ‘em and make ‘em that scared.”
Little Weirwold is also the place that nurtures Will in other ways. It is where he makes his first friends Zach, Carrie and Ginnie and George. This contrasts sharply with London as there he had “no friends as such. Bullied and ragged a lot by the kids”. Will’s experience of school and teachers is also vastly different. In London the teacher “didn’t like” Will and allowed the others to call him “ Sillie Sissie Willie”. Tom patiently teaches Will his letters and at school he is also taught and nurtured by Mrs Black and Mrs Hartridge. The play is an opportunity for Will and once Miss Thorne sees his aptitude, she encourages and nurtures it, asking him to take the role of Scrooge.
Overall, the evacuation of London children to the country in the second world war was neither cruel nor kind – for each child it was different. In Zach’s case he was safe in the country but was killed in a bombing when he went back to London. For Willie it was a positive experience in so many ways as he transforms from “Sillie Sissie Willie” to “Will”. Without the evacuation and Tom’s affection for him this transformation is unimaginable.