A woman who was forced to give up her daughter for adoption is making a plea to the government for an apology nearly 60 years on.

Veronica Smith was just 24 years old when she fell pregnant with her daughter.

She had been working as a nurse caring for visitors at the Butlin's Holiday Camp in Bognor.

While working at the camp Veronica had a relationship with a red-coat and became pregnant unexpectedly.

Veronica, now 83, was left to deal with it on her own.

The Argus: Veronica Smith, from Seaford, was forced to give up her baby after being in an unmarried mothers hostelVeronica Smith, from Seaford, was forced to give up her baby after being in an unmarried mothers hostel (Image: Submitted)

“I asked my family for help and they arranged for me to go to London when I finished in September and go straight into a hostel for unmarried mothers,” she said.

“I can’t remember much but we were pretty much confined to the hospital and were well away from our families.”

Veronica was taken to hospital in Guildford in March 1965 when she gave birth to her daughter.

She had her baby for just eight days before she was taken away.

“I went back home and had to get on with it. I was told to forget about it. ‘It will all be over and you will be fine’, they said.

“I didn’t really think about her very much. I kept it all inside.

“Until I had a breakdown in 1990. It all came tumbling out.”

It was around this time that Veronica, who now lives in Seaford, decided to get help and trace her daughter.

“I was always told ‘you will never be able to trace her’ but with public records I was able to.”

Veronica’s daughter is now in her late fifties and the pair have an “excellent” relationship, she said.

She and her daughter, who does not wish to be named, have rebuilt their relationship and worked out how they fit into each other’s lives.

When Veronica moved to Seaford from London, she set up a group for women who were forced to give up their children in the same way she was.

An estimated 185,000 mostly unmarried young women in England and Wales were forced into giving up their babies between 1949 and 1976.

“I moved here from London and set up a group of women who came every month to be together and share their experiences.

“That was what saved me in London, the post-adoption centre and counselling groups for women. Coming together and sharing the experience really helped.

“A lot of that isn’t available now because of cuts.”

A landmark report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), published in July 2022, called on the UK government to formally apologise, saying that it bore the ultimate responsibility for the “pain and suffering” of both women and children, caused by “public institutions and state employees that railroaded mothers into unwanted adoptions”.

In its response to the JCHR’s report, the UK government said in March that it was “sorry on behalf of society for what happened”, but said it was not “appropriate for a formal government apology to be given, since the state did not actively support these practices”.

The Scottish government was the first to issue a formal apology in March last year.

Veronica said: “I went to Scotland with some other women who had been forced to give up their babies.

“We heard Nicola Sturgeon make a really good speech and apologise.”

In her statement to Scottish parliament, Ms Sturgeon said: “The issuing of a formal apology is an action that governments reserve as a response to the worst injustices in our history.

“Without doubt, the adoption practices that prevailed in this country – for decades, during the twentieth century – fit that description.

“And for the people affected by those practices – I appreciate that an apology has been a very long time coming.”

The Welsh government followed in April 2023, but the UK government is still yet to apologise.

 “We mustn’t forget the children as well,” Veronica said.

“They were taken to their adoptive parents as a blank slate with little knowledge and family history until they were 18. They really missed out. We want an apology for them too.”

Veronica has been part of the group Movement for an Adoption Apology and is campaigning for the formal apology from the UK government.

Veronica added: “It is such a difficult experience. Some women can't even talk about. If they do find their children, who are adults now, some say ‘Well you gave me away’.”