When morning came, Peter was picked up by a truck that was already half full of other children. His mom didn't cry then, and he didn't either. They'd spent all night in tears. She hugged him close, and kissed his forehead and cheeks, made him promise again to be good, and to be safe. He clung to her, begging her to be careful, cause he was going to come home and she had to be there. She didn't promise.
Instead, she helped him get on the truck, with his backpack and suitcase, after making sure his coat was buttoned up, and that his backpack was closed tight. He watched her, as the truck drove, as long as he could, until she was out of sight, and then he sat quickly, shoulder to shoulder with two other kids, a little boy who cried, and a girl a little older then him, who had tears on her face, but kept her head ducked behind a book. Peter just stared ahead, fingers plucking at his sleeve, eyes going over the head of a set of twins sitting across from him, huddled together and sleeping.
After what felt like ages, the truck finally stopped. They were all ushered off and into a line. A man with a clipboard and military uniform took their names and a woman next to him pinned pieces of paper with numbers to their coats. They were split into groups and put on big ships. Peter tried to ask where they were going, but everyone was rushing so much, no one seemed to hear him.
He'd always thought he'd be excited to be on a ship. He loved boats and ships and learning about them. But as he boarded a big ship with SS Duchess of York written on the side in big bold white letters, he just felt nervous and scared. And so alone. He didn't know anyone on board with him, and he didn't know when he'd see his mom or his dad again.
The trip on the boat was nearly a week, and Peter eventually did make a few friends. There was William, who's mom was working in a factory in London and liked to sneak out of the mess hall at dinner to sit outside alone, and Michael who didn't really talk much, but was nice and liked to talk about books. They weren't like the friends Peter had back home, who he could play football with, or explore the city with, but they were good for chasing away the lonely feelings.-- -- -- -- --
In 1940, the SS Duchess of York left Liverpool on August 10th, bound for Canada taking evacuated children under the Children's Overseas Reception Board. Peter Kirkland didn't want to be on board. But he was.
The Children's Overseas Reception Board approved 24,000 children for evacuation overseas. Between June and September 1940, 1,532 children were evacuated to Canada, 577 to Australia, 353 to South Africa and 202 to New Zealand. The scheme was cancelled after City of Benares was torpedoed, killing 77 of the 90 CORB children aboard. However, in 1940 and 1941 about 14,000 children were evacuated privately to overseas relatives or foster families, including 6,000 to Canada and 5,000 to the United States.