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Active Retirees : Active Retirees Feb-March 2012
Active RetireesTM | 53 J ohn Hare was six years old when WWII broke out, and British fears of an air attack were widespread. John and his sisters were registered for evacuation and, in July 1940, were informed they would sail to Australia the next day. Along with 477 other evacuees, John boarded the M/S Batory. “We couldn’t tell anyone we were going because everything was hush hush,” he recalls. They stayed overnight in a school hall in Liverpool, which had been closed down due to a measles outbreak. Several days later, the disease had spread among the travellers. After stopovers in Cape Town, Bombay and Singapore, John and his sisters alighted in Melbourne. There, they stayed at a youth hostel while foster care arrangements were made. Separated from his sisters, John was delivered to a home in Hampton. “The taxi stopped outside a house with an elderly woman out the front.” Terrified and homesick, John chased after the taxi with tears streaming down his face. His first carer was also less than enthused to see him. “It turned out she was Mrs Cross by name, and by nature,” he says. On his first night, he wet the bed, and awoke the next morning to hear her on the phone to Child Welfare Services demanding his removal. He moved around the country, never staying longer than a few months in one place. “The best Christmas I can remember was with the Philps in North Hampton,” John remembers. “I got 12 pennies wrapped up in newspaper.” He stayed in nine homes and enrolled in eight schools in just four years. Being the new kid made it difficult to settle in, and trouble followed him. “I can remember being told I was a crybaby a couple of times. And I got in trouble for running away from the war.” One of his carers taught John to defend himself after he came home with a black eye. “I got quite good at it,” he says. “I started causing the trouble and the beltings stopped.” This piqued John’s passion for boxing as an adult. He became a coach with the Melbourne Boxing Association and was selected to coach at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. He later became chairman of the Victorian Boxing Control Board. In 1958, John formed a community for child evacuees. Forming the club helped John reconcile himself with the past. Has he found it difficult to overcome his experiences? “I think it has affected me over the years, but I’ve got on alright,” he says. •• John Hare doesn’t spin your usual war tale. Instead, he spoke to Ann luff of fleeing England, moving from home to home and school to school in Australia, and learning to box to defend himself. speAKer profile The good fight Read all about it John Hare’s memoir of the voyage and his many homes in Australia, Evacuee, was published in 2002. For more information, visit the National Library of Australia catalogue. W: catalogue.nla.gov.au/ Record/2084476 BarefootMedia
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