Published Feb 2013
The childsnatcher does not come in the dead of night.
In 1949, England’s children’s homes overflow with boys and girls left destitute by war. For these children, the future is bleak: long childhoods left in institutions, poverty, and prison.
Yet, there is an answer. Across the world, Britain’s colonies are in desperate need of new white stock to shore up their populations – and, from Australia, a clarion call is sent out: bring us your children.
When his mother leaves him at a boys’ home in Chapeltown, nine-year-old Jon Heather finds himself part of an enforced migration scheme orchestrated by charitable organisation, the Children’s Crusade. He, like hundreds of others, will sail to the ends of the world, there to forge a new life. For the boys of the Children’s Crusade, life will be a strict regime of hard work and discipline, designed to make proud Australian men out of terrified English boys.
Meanwhile, Australia’s own government is marshalling its resources for childsnatching of a different order: the rescue of ‘half-caste’ aboriginal children from their parents, and their transformation into good, useful members of white civilisation.
So begins an odyssey that will last a lifetime, as Jon Heather and his group of unlikely friends battle to make their way back home.