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The Queen's First Ever Speech In 1940 Was About Child Migrants

08/09/2015 21:01 | Updated 09 September 2015

As Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-reigning British monarch in history on Wednesday, her first ever public speech reveals a compassionate message of solidarity to child migrants, one that a refugee body claims could be applied to the thousands fleeing Syria today.

When she was just 14 - and still a princess as her father was on the throne - Elizabeth addressed the UK children who left their homes to escape the dangers of Word War II, on the BBC's Children's Hour radio slot in 1940.

Teenage Elizabeth tells the thousands of homesick children who travelled abroad to Commonwealth countries to escape the threat of German invasion and bombings that she is "not forgetting" them.

LISTEN TO ELIZABETH'S FIRST SPEECH:

As well as being sent to the British countryside, several thousand children were also moved to countries like the United States, Australia and Canada.

Though their situation was very different from the millions forced to leave Syria — the British children were evacuated before the bombings began, and were unlikely to be seeking international protection from the countries they were sent to — the young princess's speech touches on the moving plight of young people seeking a new home when their countries are no longer safe.

The future Queen shares her empathy with the children who had to travel thousands of miles, who she says must be "often thinking of the Old Country".

"We are not forgetting you," she says, telling the refugees that children still in Britain are "full of cheerfulness and courage" in the face of war.

"Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers," the princess says, speaking into a microphone with her younger sister Margaret beside her.

"My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all."

Elizabeth wishes the evacuated children "good luck", saying that when the war is finally over "remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place."

princess elizabeth 1940 radio

Elizabeth [right] and her sister princess Margaret before the 1940 broadcast

David Cameron committed this week to house 20,000 Syrian child refugees by 2020, but has been urged to up the figure by critics.

Judith Dennis, Policy Manager at the Refugee Council, said: “Princess Elizabeth’s first speech showed compassion and empathy towards British children who had to leave their homes and travel many miles to safety, missing their homeland and loved ones.

"This is so resonant of the situation facing many children today, coming from countries such as Syria. Thankfully we have seen messages of solidarity from people in this country, most of whom cannot imagine the dangers these children have faced.“

The future Queen assured her young listeners that: "All of us children who are still at home think continually of our friends and relations who have gone overseas - who have travelled thousands of miles to find a wartime home and a kindly welcome in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America."

british children evacuated australia

Children leaving London on trains bound for Australia as part of the Fairbright Farm Scheme

"My sister and I feel we know quite a lot about these countries. Our father and mother have so often talked to us of their visits to different parts of the world. So it is not difficult for us to picture the sort of life you are all leading, and to think of all the new sights you must be seeing, and the adventures you must be having."

"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."

“We know, everyone of us, that in the end all will be well," she tells the listeners, speaking also to the children evacuated from UK cities to the countryside.

Government-funded groups like the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) helped to transport children overseas, when it was thought that invasion from Hitler's Germany could be imminent. The movement was part of the biggest migration Britain had ever known, with three million children evacuated from their homes to the countryside as well as abroad.

princess elizabeth 1940 radio

Many comparisons have been made between the current refugee crisis and migration in the Second World War period, including the likening of Britain's commitment to refugees to the Kindertransport programme that welcomed 10,000 Jewish refugees to the UK in just a few months in the 1930s.

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THE FULL SCRIPT OF PRINCESS ELIZABETH's 1940 CHILDREN'S HOUR BROADCAST:

In wishing you all 'good evening' I feel that I am speaking to friends and companions who have shared with my sister and myself many a happy Children's Hour.

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

All of us children who are still at home think continually of our friends and relations who have gone overseas - who have travelled thousands of miles to find a wartime home and a kindly welcome in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America.

My sister and I feel we know quite a lot about these countries. Our father and mother have so often talked to us of their visits to different parts of the world. So it is not difficult for us to picture the sort of life you are all leading, and to think of all the new sights you must be seeing, and the adventures you must be having.

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.

Before I finish I can truthfully say to you all that we children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage. We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war.

We know, everyone 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.

My sister is by my side and we are both going to say goodnight to you.

Come on, Margaret.

Goodnight, children.

Goodnight, and good luck to you all.

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