Reunited after 43 Years. Three Brothers Torn a World Apart by Australia Child Migrant Scandal; EXCLUSIVE

The Mirror (London, England), December 6, 2013 | Go to article overview

Reunited after 43 Years. Three Brothers Torn a World Apart by Australia Child Migrant Scandal; EXCLUSIVE


Byline: ROD MCPHEE

Standing with their arms around each other for the first time in more than four decades, the Wilton brothers felt all the years of pain and heartache melt away.

As they laughed and joked together like they once did as young boys, it was hard to believe that the three brothers had spent 43 years waiting to be reunited.

Kevin and Rex were just nine and 10 when they were taken by social services and sent to Australia, leaving Bruce, then 14, back in England. Now, finally, they have been reconciled back in the West Country where they grew up.

"We definitely all have the same dry sense of humour," says Bruce, now 58.

"We've found out all sorts of things that we had in common. Everything from the fact that we were all married, now divorced, but also funny little things like the fact that we all hate tomato ketchup!"

While Rex reconnected with Bruce after moving back to the UK 25 years ago, this is the first time all three have been together since they were cruelly separated in 1970.

"I drove Kevin up to meet Bruce and as soon as he opened the car door Bruce was there and they flung their arms around each other crying," says Rex, 54. "Meeting up again has really has helped to heal the wounds. It's like we were never apart."

Kevin, 53, adds: "Within 20 minutes of talking to each other it was like we'd only just seen each other the day before. You certainly wouldn't have thought we hadn't all been together for 43 years."

Retired miner Kevin is not back for good, just on a visit from his Aussie home in Howlong, New South Wales. So the brothers have made sure to rekindle the few memories they share.

"One of the happiest parts of the reunion was when we went back to Mevagissey to see where we used to live," says Bruce, a divorced father of three from Exeter.

"It made me feel like we were all boys again, talking about climbing trees and recalling how we used to slide down hills, the three of us in an old tin bath."

The brothers grew up in the Cornish resort but were taken into care in the mid-1960s after their father, furniture salesman Ronald Wilton, died of a burst appendix at the age of 30.

Their mother Marina couldn't cope with three boys and they went into care.

They were moved to different foster homes, and the authorities ensured they could never get in touch with their mother. But the three brothers saw each other every now and then.

"Life was never a bed of roses and we had our ups and downs," says Rex, a former gardener and handyman who eventually changed his surname from Wilton to his mother's maiden name, Wade.

"We used to play in the woods, and another place we used to go to was this old castle, where we used to slide down the grass banks in old fertiliser sacks."

But then Kevin and Rex were packed off to Australia - they were the final victims of the British government's grim deportation programme for children in care.

Older Bruce, now an IT engineer, simply refused to go.

"I just turned around and said, 'Why the hell should I go off to some land I've never even heard of?' I have regrets about not going with them, but I just don't think I really understood what was happening."

Kevin recalls feeling initially excited about the move to Australia.

"When they told us we were going to 'a home' we thought they were sending us to a childless couple or something. We didn't think it would be a children's home.

"I'd just been packed off with this little suitcase to the other side of the world. I was terrified"

Rex remembers saying goodbye to Bruce. "He was standing in his Army cadet uniform in Newquay train station. We just bumped into him by chance then said goodbye as if we might see him again next week. I didn't know it would be the last time we'd see him in years. If only we'd have known then we might at least have been able to give him a proper goodbye. …

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