Nottingham

Queen's Birthday Honours 2019: WW2 child evacuee honoured

Karen Follows with James Roffey Image copyright British Evacuees Association
Image caption James Roffey - pictured with association manager Karen Follows - said he was "excited" about his appointment

A man who set up an association to commemorate World War Two child evacuees has been appointed MBE.

James Roffey, who was himself evacuated from London to Sussex, set up the Evacuees Reunion Association in 1996 after a heated correspondence with the then Prime Minister John Major.

Mr Roffey, from Nottinghamshire, said the experience "changed lives" and the honour was exciting.

The association said his recognition was "well-deserved".

Mr Roffey, 88, was eight years old when he was evacuated from Camberwell to Pulborough, in West Sussex, with two of his siblings.

Image copyright British Evacuees Association
Image caption The association has had several famous members, including TV presenter Michael Aspel - pictured here with Mr Roffey on the right

However the village was far from a safe haven from German bomb attacks and Mr Roffey and his friends would often find German planes and airmen - dead and alive - in the woods where they played.

"It was quite ridiculous - Pulborough was bombed regularly," he said, recalling one occasion a German bomber began machine-gunning him and some other children.

However, Mr Roffey's stay was largely happy and he remained in touch with his billet family throughout their lives.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Roffey felt infuriated with the lack of representation for wartime evacuees

In the 1990s, he became infuriated with the lack of evacuee representation in a national parade to mark the 50th anniversary of VJ Day, so began corresponding with then Prime Minister John Major.

"To my surprise, he wrote back and said, 'You're in'," Mr Roffey said.

He and his brother joined the parade through London, together with hundreds of troops. From that experience, the idea of the association was born.

It has 1,200 members, who meet regularly and membership has included celebrity evacuees such as Michael Aspel, Sir Roger Moore and Sir Bruce Forsyth.

"We're all getting a bit old now," said Mr Roffey, who lives near Retford and is the association's honorary secretary. "But evacuation remains an emotive topic.

"People today feel incredulous it ever happened."

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