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Part 1 – The Church Hill Workhouse

Part 2 – Children and Vagrants

Reproduced with the permission of the Clifton Montpelier Powis Community Alliance ( who first published these in their newsletters:

CMPCAnews 11 (March 2008)

CMPCAnews 13 (September 2008)

A Synopsis of “A Son of the Empire” by George Bowley



This is the autobiography of George Bowley who grew up during the war on the streets of Brighton. In early 1943, his mother was imprisoned for fraud amounting to fourteen pounds and consequently he and his four siblings aged between 3 weeks and eight years were sent to Warren Farm Industrial Schools, Woodingdean, Brighton. George describes in detail the memories of his life in Warren Farm both good and bad. During the five years that followed the eldest Evelyn aged 8 was evacuated to Yorkshire, the baby girl aged about six months was fostered. George aged 8 and his brother John aged 7 were introduced to each other a few days before they were put on a ship bound for Holland and thence to Cape Town in South Africa and on to Rhodesia, as wards of the Kingsley Fairbridge scheme for migrants. He describes in detail the fascinating three week journey to Bulawayo in Rhodesia. Followed by the ups and downs of a life filled with adventure and the difficulties of adjustment. He leaves Fairbridge at the age of sixteen to follow the Fairbridge ideal. For close on ten years he works the land, handed to farmers to do with as they please. With the advent of British sanctions following the declaration of UDI he is forced to leave the land midst a bloody war. He enters the corporate world and marries the girl of his dreams.  The war intensifies. He spends two weeks in every month seeking the insurgents and after narrowly escaping death in an ambush decides like most migrants do when faced with every migrant’s nightmare. Who am I? To whom do I belong? Then the memories come flooding back and with them a desire to find one’s roots. He finds them in the end, but sadly there is no togetherness as his father admits to a hatred for his deceased wife and no less for his children. The story ends with the discovery of a long lost brother, Tony, who their mother gave birth to in a workhouse in East Grinstead. The meeting of George and Tony is serialised on BBC Southern Counties radio and becomes a catalysts for George’s invitation to attend the government’s public apology to migrants by Gordon Brown.