Ben Wicks and British History

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ENGLISH

England.David Rock DesignAn ocean of ink wouldn’t cover this topic, but I’m going to tell you about several books I’ve enjoyed. When I was a teen Ben Wicks was a popular cartoon artist, drawing the life of the indolent Andy Capp and his long-suffering wife, Florrie. After he’d immigrated to Canada, Mr Wicks wrote or compiled a number of books centering around World War 2. Great for readers who are interested in British history through the eyes of those who lived it.

Wicks was a boy in London when World War II was declared and one of the evacuees, but made his way back home in time to watch the dogfights in the London skies during the Battle of Britain. He writes about his own experiences during those years, plus he has contacted and interviewed hundreds of other evacuees and shares their stories in his books, No Time to Wave Goodbye and The Day They Took the Children.

The English government feared—and rightly so—that major cities like London would be targeted for heavy bombing. If schools would be hit thousands of children’s lives could be lost. So the plan was hatched: as soon as war was declared all school age children, a number of teachers, also a number of young moms with preschoolers, would be evacuated from London and other southern cities.

It was fruit-basket upset. The children and their teachers marched to the stations one morning, given gas masks, loaded onto trains and shipped into the country. Many inner city children had never seen it before. Small town and country folks with a spare room or two had been ordered to take them in; at the train station it was “come and take your pick” from the weary, frightened lot that arrived. Cute little girls and big boys who could work were picked first. Siblings who clung to each other, refusing to be parted, and children with disabilities had to wait and wait, wondering if anyone would take them in.

I’ve read No Time to Wave Goodbye* and it’s a fascinating collection. The book is written in a positive note, but the stories are frank. Some children made friends for life, while others were starved, neglected, even abused. Some homes found themselves with slum children who’d never learned manners or personal hygiene; some children came from well-to-do homes and found themselves boarded with rustic families in cramped quarters. Many were evacuated to areas where they couldn’t understand the local dialect at all.
*© 1989 by Ben Wicks. My copy published by General Paperbacks, Toronto, ON

Promise Me You’ll Take Care of My Daughter* is another interesting book of experiences, this time those of War Brides who married Canadian soldiers. There were 48,000 women who came to Canada after World War II as wives of Canadian soldiers. Ben Wicks has managed to contact a good sampling of them and has sections of the different aspects of their experiences: meeting their soldier; the wedding day; the good-byes for home and family; coming across; the new home; meeting the in-laws.
*©1992 by Ben Wicks. Stoddart Publishing Co, Ltd., Toronto, ON

He also wrote Nell’s War and When the Boys Came Marching Home, the latter a book about the joy and turmoil returning soldiers experienced after the war was over.

Book: Patrolling the Heart of the West

True Tales of a Nevada State Trooper

by Steve Raabe

Patrolling the Heart of the West: True Tales of a Nevada State Trooper by [Raabe, Steve]

Every now and again I finish a book and think, “Everyone should read this!” That was my reaction yesterday when I finished the final chapter in Trooper Steve Raabe’s accounts of incidents in his life patrolling the highways in Nevada.

Five Stars from me! I found the writer’s on-the-job tales informative as well as interesting and well told. I think every American — and motorists everywhere — should read this book to get a clearer picture of what the job entails for the man behind the badge, the officer who pulls them over to warn them about that missing tail light, hand them a citation for speeding, or order them to buckle up.

I learned something myself in regard to an experience I once had in the States, when I came up to, and finally passed a patrol car going about 10mph below speed limit. Officer Raabe explains why this is a practice among patrolmen, how it’s helpful for spotting problems, like expired license plates and shifty-looking drivers. 🙂

Raabe shares his memories with compassion and a delightful humor. I appreciate that he hasn’t sensationalized or gone into gruesome details of accidents. He tells a few stories about speeders who paid the price, and of needless deaths because the driver and/or passenger wasn’t/weren’t buckled in. Yet he doesn’t come across in a preachy tone.

In addition to the on-the-road threat of armed-and-dangerous criminals, department favoritism or hostilities can sometimes make a cop’s job miserable. In one chapter we read how, sadly, even in the police force, administrative high-handed interference and imprudence can derail a promising career.

I think this book would be useful in driver training classes, a great asset for fostering understanding and compassion between police and beginning drivers. While the writing is overall quite clean, there are a few places where the author repeats the exact words spoken to him.