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Oct 13, 2022

'Narnia' and More: Films About Displaced U.K. Children During World War II

Parents always want their children to be out of harm’s way, whether it’s because of flood, fire, hurricane … or war. The recent death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II brought up memories of her long life, which included the German bombing of her homeland.

During the blitz in World War II, parents had the hard choice of deciding whether they would keep their kids with them and have them experience the terror of the bombs or send them to strangers in the countryside where they would be much safer. That was a difficult decision to make.

Although their parents were urged to send them to Canada, the then-14-year-old Princesses Elizabeth and her younger sister Margaret, spent the war years in the U.K.

Together they made a historic radio address to the children who were far away from their homes.

 

“Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers,” Elizabeth voiced. “My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you, as we know from experience what it means to be away from those you love most of all.

“To you living in new surroundings, we send a message of true sympathy and at the same time we would like to thank the kind people who have welcomed you to their homes in the country.”

This was a broadcast meant to assure the children that things would be OK for those away from their mothers.

“But I am sure that you, too, are often thinking of the Old Country. I know you won't forget us; it is just because we are not forgetting you that I want, on behalf of all the children at home, to send you our love and best wishes - to you and to your kind hosts as well.”

The future queen concluded the address with a statement of encouragement.

“We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well, for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember, it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.”

For those who were sent to the British countryside, their experiences varied. Three movies that depict the struggles and experiences of children while away from everything and everyone they knew and loved, bring the reality of this horrific time to light, in both fun and gritty ways.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (2005, PG for battle sequences and frightening moments)

Among the most notable films addressing this topic is The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, based on The Chronicles of Narnia, by British Christian author C.S. Lewis.

This fantasy adventure focuses on four siblings who were sent to a large country house where the owner, who is not a fan of children and has strict rules, ignores them. He has an incredible secret, which the siblings discover. A magical wardrobe is the portal to the mystical land of Narnia.

The story has many Christian connections as well as being simply a fun adventure, prompting more stories in the series. With all the turmoil back in London, the kids discover there is chaos and disorder everywhere – even in Narnia.

Their adventure in Narnia helps to take their focus off of the tragedies happening at home. Even though they miss their family, Narnia is a challenging and wonderful escape.

Currently included in Disney+, and available for rental/purchase on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu and YouTube.

 

Summerland (2020, PG for some thematic content, some suggestive comments, language, and smoking)

To her chagrin, Alice, an artist living the bohemian life in the country, is charged with the care of a young boy evacuated from London.

This is a story of love and friendship. With the backdrop of the war and the mores of the time, Alice finds herself in a situation she never expected.

And as the weeks wear on, the bond between the young boy, Frank, and Alice becomes enduring and emotional and their subsequent love for each other will see them through the rest of their lives.

Starting his time away from his family was emotional for Frank, being that he was placed with a woman who did not know anything about children and didn’t want him there.

But that changes, and they become the best of friends. While there is a plot twist at the end (spoiler alert: a lesbian relationship is involved in the story), this is a rich and heartening film.

Currently included on Netflix, free on the ad-supported Tubi, and available for rental/purchase on Vudu, iTunes and Amazon Prime Video.

 

The Railway Children Return (2022, PG for thematic material, some violence and language)

The sequel to the popular 1970 family film The Railway Children has a new generation of youngsters experiencing a tough situation in their lives.

Lily, Pattie, and Ted are sent to the country to keep them safe from the bombs.

The opening scene at the railway station is truly emotional. Mothers are ambivalent about sending their kids to live with strangers, yet they know they will be safer away from the cities.

One mother couldn’t do it and retrieved her child from the train. But most children took the journey. It was a brave choice for their parents.

The agencies involved tried to keep siblings together, and this trio is lucky to find a caring home in which to live. There is even a young local boy there, so they feel a little more comfortable.

But their experience in the little village afford them a cruel lesson in life when they come across a young black American soldier and they learn the truth about racial feelings of the time. Their goodness and naiveté about the outside world help them help the soldier.

This film is gritty yet happy. With the backdrop of World War II, there are other things happening which affect the kids. Although they miss their mother, they find a way to be happy in the village while escaping most of the horrors of the bombs at home.

Released this summer in the U.K. and available on U.K. rental sites and on DVD/Blu-Ray via the U.K. version of Amazon; no word yet on streaming in the U.S.

 

But, the acclaimed original film, set in Victorian times, is available to stream for free on TUBI. Here's a peek:

 

Image: Shutterstock

Francine Brokaw is a longtime journalist, covering entertainment, product reviews and travel, and is the host of Beyond the Red Carpet on Village Television and YouTube.

Keep up with Family Theater Productions on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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