In 1986 Margaret Humphreys, a Nottingham social worker, investigated a woman's claim that, aged four, she had been put on a boat to Australia by the British government. At first incredulous, Margaret discovered that this was just the tip of an enormous iceberg. Up to 150,000 children, some as young as three years old, had been deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the Empire, right up until as recently as 1970. Many were told that their parents were dead, and parents were told that their children had been adopted. In fact, for many children it was to be a life of horrendous physical and sexual abuse far away from everything they knew. Margaret and her team reunited thousands of families before it was too late, brought authorities to account, and worldwide attention to an outrageous miscarriage of justice.
Empty Cradles is also published under the title Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles. In 2010 the book was made into a major fiim titled Oranges and Sunshine.