Originally posted 2019-08-07 12:34:53. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The evacuation of civilians in Britain during the Second World War was designed to protect people, especially children, from the risks associated with aerial bombing of cities by moving them to areas thought to be less at risk. Operation Pied Piper, which began on 1 September 1939, officially relocated more than 3.5 million people. There were further waves of official evacuation and re-evacuation from the south and east coasts in June 1940, when a seaborne invasion was expected, and from affected cities after the Blitz began in September 1940. There were also official evacuations from the UK to other parts of the British Empire, and many non-official evacuations within and from the UK. Other mass movements of civilians included British citizens arriving from the Channel Islands, and displaced people arriving from continental Europe.
Child evacuees from Bristol arriving at Brent in Devon in 1940
The Government Evacuation Scheme was developed during summer 1938 by the Anderson Committee and implemented by the Ministry of Health. The country was divided into zones, classified as either “evacuation”, “neutral”, or “reception”, with priority evacuees being moved from the major urban centres and billeted on the available private housing in more rural areas. Each zone covered roughly a third of the population, although several urban areas later bombed had not been classified for evacuation. In early 1939, the reception areas compiled lists of available housing. Space was found for about 2000 people, and the government also constructed camps which provided a few thousand additional spaces.
In summer 1939, the government began to publicise its plan through the local authorities. They had overestimated demand: only half of all school-aged children were moved from the urban areas instead of the expected 80%. There was enormous regional variation: as few as 15% of the children were evacuated from some urban areas, while over 60% of children were evacuated from Manchester, Belfast and Liverpool. The refusal of the central government to spend large sums on preparation also reduced the effectiveness of the plan. In the event over 3,000,000 people were evacuated.
Evacuation was a huge logistical exercise which required thousands of volunteer helpers. The first stage of the process began on 1 September 1939 and involved teachers, local authority officials, railway staff, and 17,000 members of the Women’s Voluntary Service (WVS). The WVS provided practical assistance, looking after tired and apprehensive evacuees at railway stations and providing refreshments in reception areas and billeting halls. Volunteers were also needed to host evacuees.
My Mother aged 11 years was evacuated to Bellingham Camp for a while to get her out of Newcastle with her 8 year old sister. They were taken in by farmers as a pair as the war went on and they were expected to do chores for their board and lodging. They were stern and upset my Mothers sister alot with their discipline and unfriendly demeanor with two little girls far from home. They suffered from home sickness and good cooking by their Mum. Although they were fed well it was not the same as home.