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 Author George Bowley

About the author - George Bowley

I was eight and my brother seven when in March 1948 we were introduced and began a journey to a little known country Rhodesia. But the adventure didn't start then. It began the day I was born on New Years Day 1939 to a mother I remember spiritually and a father I never knew, for at the time, he was soldering somewhere in the Far East. I was four when in 1942 my mother was imprisoned for theft and her four children placed in an orphanage where they were separated and remained so for over thirty years. We were never told that Mother had died in 1945 before father had returned to England. He made no contact and agreed with the Fairbridge Society that my brother and I be sent to the Promised Paradise.

I soon realized that Fairbridge Memorial College did not fit the description given by the migrant representatives back home. It was a R.A.F training camp complete with Nissan hut dormitories but never-the-less exceeded the cold cruel atmosphere of Warren Farm Home for homeless and abandoned children, There followed nine years of a mix of public school bullying,, hard work and discipline . I left school at the age 16 and for the next ten years I was passed from farmer to farmer for a pittance to do with as they pleased. But despite those grueling years my love for nature and the characters that helped shape my life carried me through.

It was in the last of my farming years that I met and married the girl of my dreams but sadly war was looming and British sanctions put paid to any chance I had of leasing land and instead I branched off into the commercial sector in the paper making industry with two weeks in the month spent in the forces fighting terrorism. As the possibility of death or injury increased, with it was nursed the uncertainty of a family who were but faint childhood memories. With the ensuring turmoil of war came the urge to search for my family. The search ended in 1972 when I met my father and two sisters, heard of the death of my mother and the existence of a brother who had been sent to Australia and had not been heard of since Sadly the family were as far apart as they had been when I entered Warren Farm. I returned twice to England in the hope of re-unification but sadly to no avail - my sisters had yet to meet and my father apart as he had ever been.

We left Zimbabwe for South Africa in May 1983 and years later my elder sister discovered an older brother who had been fostered out under my mother's maiden name. We met and for two years we were as brothers should be and on the day of his death I was invited to the apology given by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the Palace of Westminster. My words to him were qite simple. 'I can forgive the British for sending my brother and I to Rhodesia , but what is unforgivable is the forced separation of four children whether through the demands of a father or the agreement of the relevant government department.

 

About the book - On Their Own: Britain's Child Migrants

 

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"The Colonies have, above all things, a superfluity of land for the landless men of Britain; Britain has a superfluity of men for the manless land. But whereas the land is a good land, the men Britain can spare are not always good men. The best emigrant farmers have been the aristocracy of English yeoman which England can ill afford to lose. The colonies should therefor take something that England does not need, if both side are to profit; something never the less that will be an asset to the Colony."

This was part of a speech given by Kingsley Fairbridge to members of the Colonial Club at a meeting in Oxford University in 1909, that heralded the beginning of a stream of child migrants to the Colonies. Between the start of World War 1 and the aftermath of the 2nd World War an estimated 150 000 orphaned and homeless children were sent to many parts of the Empire including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Zimbabwe - the author was one of them, this is his story...

 

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