For more than 100 years, child migration schemes removed children from their families and friends and the places they knew. The children were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia. Supposedly to give children with poor lives a better chance, it was also a means of increasing the population of these still new countries. At least three of the children were Emptages.
Emily Sophia Wallis married Walter Dansy Emptage in 1920 when she was 22.
My mother had told me that Emily was adopted and I thought that there was little chance of finding her birth mother. However, thanks to the resourcefulness of Joan Leary, a member of Team Emptage, I was able to trace Emily’s birth.
Given her adoption, I expected Emily’s birth to be a sad event but I found the circumstances were even more upsetting than I expected.
Family poverty following the death of his father when Walter was just one year old probably led to Walter joining the Royal Fusiliers Special Reserve in 1913 when he was 17 and served in World War I. His military career continued when Walter enlisted in the RAF in 1923, serving for four years, including in Palestine. And he was still young enough to serve in the army when war broke out again in 1939.
But life for Walter took a darker turn after the war.
What did you do in the war, Mummy?
Leaving school just a few months before the start of World War 2, Eileen became a telephone operator in the Civil Service and was one of thousands who worked to keep communications going throughout the country. They worked shifts to maintain the service 24 hours a day, often sleeping on camp beds at the telephone exchanges. They stayed at their switchboards in the midst of bombing raids. They were the unsung heroes.
But was there even more to Eileen Joyce Emptage?