OUTSIDE the big school building at Charing Cross, his small suitcase in one hand, Dan Harris waved goodbye to his parents and took his place in the queue.

He was eight years old, and the next day he would be on his way to Nova Scotia, one of 2664 young people evacuated by the Children’s Overseas Reception Board during the Second World War.

On August 10, 1940 – 80 years almost to the day – Dan left Greenock on the SS Duchess of York, bound for Canada, where he would spend the next four years.

“I would love to hear from anyone who was on that boat too, all those years ago,” smiles Dan, who now lives in East Kilbride.

“I remember feeling sad to leave my parents, but it felt like an adventure.”

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He adds: “We were all told to keep it a secret, and that no-one must know where we were going. We had to stay overnight in the school at Charing Cross, and the next morning, kids out playing football in the playground shouted up to us to ask what we were doing.”

Dan adds, with a laugh: “We yelled out the windows that we were going to Canada on a ship. So much for secrecy…”

The CORB scheme, during a critical period of the war, was intended as a ‘temporary exile’ for British children, as fears grew of a German invasion. They were sent, mainly, to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and some to the US.

“The voyage was great fun – these were big, luxury liners, and it was exciting, as a child, to watch the sailors practising using the anti-aircraft guns,” says Dan.

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“The way home, four years later, was a different kettle of fish. We were older, we knew what war meant. We were much more aware of the dangers we faced.”

In Canada, Dan stayed with his aunt Annie and cousins Helen and Jimmy, in “a house surrounded by fruit orchards and fields for 50 miles all around,” he adds.

“I arrived just a few weeks before my ninth birthday. My brother, Billy, was only five so he was too young to come. Thousands of families applied, so I felt privileged to get to go. It was quite a different life from growing up in a room and kitchen in Maryhill.”

Dan missed his parents and brother – he recalls his first Christmas in Canada, when he cried receiving Dandy and Beano annuals from his mum and dad.

“I suddenly felt homesick and I wanted my mammy,” he says. “The annuals went down a treat with my new Canadian pals, though.

The children got the chance to send a telegram homea when they arrived.

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“We had to stick to a strict template, there were rules as to what we could say – there was a war on, after all,” says Dan. “I said – ‘I am having a good time. Chins up. Love Danny.’”

He smiles: “My mum kept that telegram and I still have it today.”

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The CORB scheme came to an abrupt end when the evacuation ship SS City of Benares, carrying 90 children bound for homes in Canada, was torpedoed and sunk. Many people, including 77 of the 90 CORB children, died in the tragedy.

“As time went on, my mum wanted me back home,” says Dan. “She saw a story in the newspaper about an MP whogot his son home from Canada, so she wrote to Churchill saying, ‘if you can do it for him, you can do it for me.’”

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He smiles: “Whether Churchill read it or not, I was on the next boat home, part of a convoy of 40 ships. My mother was a very brave and determined woman.”

Dan was invited back to Canada in 2006 as a guest speaker for the closing ceremony of the primary school he had attended.

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“I met up with six of my former classmates from 1944,” he says. “One of the teachers was so taken by my genuine affection for the school he sent a brick in a box by post to me. I still have it. I haven’t the heart to throw it away.”

*Were you evacuated as part of the CORB scheme during World War II? We would love to hear from you. Get in touch - email ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk