The British Government's Decision To Evacuate Children From Britain’s Major Cities At The Start Of The Second World War

1783 words - 7 pages

The government evacuated children from major cities in Britain to safer areas of the country in response to a new style of warfare that had emerged from World War One, due to the use of aircraft. Aircraft began to target industrial areas in an attempt to damage a country’s economy, and therefore damage their ability on the front line, and morale. However, accuracy was bad and so bombs often landed off target and injured civilians who worked or lived in the industrial areas. The Government decided that the children needed to be protected as they were the next generation and fewer child deaths meant higher morale for the British people. Bombs were less likely to fall on rural areas of Great Britain and so the government decided to evacuate people who could not help the war effort out to houses, and families, in the countryside.
Evacuation was when children, expectant mothers, the frail elderly, the disabled, and the chronically sick were moved to safer areas of the country in anticipation of bombing but not all these people moved. The plan for the evacuation was drawn up by the Anderson Committee in the summer of 1938. An advice leaflet produced by the Lord Privy Seal’s Office in July 1939 advised everyone to move whose presence could not be of assistance. Although evacuation was voluntary, many leaflets, radio shows and other propaganda was produced by the government to try to persuade people to go. They put a lot of time, effort and money into the production of propaganda. The evacuation was nicknamed ‘Operation Pied Piper’ (with reference to the children’s story) and initially took place on the 1st September 1939, however The Anderson Committee overestimated the number of people who would leave, a million and a quarter people were to be moved out of London, however in practice about 600,000 actually left in August/September 1939. The country was divided into three zones, classified as either ‘evacuation’, ‘reception’, or ‘neutral’, with priority evacuees being moved from evacuation areas to reception areas and nobody being evacuated from or into neutral areas. Young evacuees needed schooling, so the Ministry of Education was also heavily involved with the evacuation arrangements. Teachers were evacuated with the children to help the teachers in the countryside cope with the extra students. The arrival of large numbers of people from inner city areas brought inevitable problems of adjustment for both sides. The government anticipated bombing from the sky because it had been tried and tested in other incidents in the years leading up to the war.
On 19th January 1915 Germans used two zeppelins to bomb Britain. One was over Great Yarmouth and the other was over King’s Lynn. Nobody had ever seen anything like them before, and it hadn’t occurred to anyone that Britain needed to be defended against attacks from the air. Huge airships, hovering, almost silently, over towns terrified civilians. During 1915 zeppelins made twenty raids on England and...

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