Wartime children evacuees plan reunion in Halifax this September

In the summer of 1940, Maggie Morris arrived in Halifax, along with thousands of other British children. They were sent to safety from the war, in an official plan called Children’s Overseas Reception Board. In September, the evacuees are holding their 60th anniversary. Maggie Morris writes:

“I’m wondering if there are any ex-CORBites among your readers who might be interested in further information about the 60th reunion in Halifax this September. I was number 1008 of the British children sent overseas to Canada in the early days of World War ll. There are a number of ways of getting in touch with me.

Since this year marks the 60th anniversary of the great overseas evacuation of children from the United Kingdom to what were then the Dominions, i.e., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, I am wondering if there are any ex-CORBites (Children’s Overseas Reception Board) among your readers, who might be interested in the reunion we are planning, in Halifax, on the September 16th weekend of this year.

I grew up in Scarborough, Yorkshire, which I left, together with 14 other youngsters, on August 4, 1940. ving met up with almost three hundred other children several days later, we sailed on the ‘Antonia’, arriving at Pier 21 in Halifax, N. S. on August 19th. I was number 1008 and I still have the label which they tied onto me!

I mention the Pier in particular, for it has a very special significance in Canadian history. For many years it was the immigration pier, and thus the gateway into Canada for hundreds of immigrants, refugees, military personnel (going to and coming back from the World War ll. hostilities), the war brides with their children, and all the children who were evacuated under the CORB scheme to Canada, with the single exception of those aboard the Bayano.

This was all during the summer of 1940. Without a doubt many hundreds more children would have been sent, but in September the ‘City of Benares’ was torpedoed. Some 73 children lost their lives, and the CORB scheme came to an abrupt end.

The CORB ‘children’ had a marvellous 50th. anniversary reunion in York, England in 1990. It was organized chiefly by a man called Michael Fethney, whose book The Absurd and the Brave is the definitive story of the CORB evacuation. It is at present in another printing.

There was a second reunion that year in Halifax Nova Scotia, for there are quite a few of us who either stayed in Canada after the war, or, like myself, returned to live here later. During the Halifax reunion we were taken to see Pier 21, at that time out of commission, empty, and looking rather bleak.

Some years ago though, a group of interested and hardworking people decided that Pier 21 should be made into a national historic site which would give visitors an authentic glimpse into a very special segment of Canadian history. It was officially opened on July First, Canada Day of last year, and I had the honour of representing the evacuees at the opening ceremony,

During the impromptu lunch which several of us had later, we discussed the possibility of having a 60th anniversary get-together in September in Halifax. I’m wondering if there are any ex-Corbites among your readers who might be interested in further information. There are a number of ways of getting in touch with me and I list them below.”

Maggie Morris Smolensky (nee Margaret Beal, CORB 1008, SS.Antonia, August 1940)
35 Whitehall Road phone (416) 924-6084
Toronto, Ontario Canada, M4W 2C5 fax (416) 924-6246
e-mail [email protected]