Why Did the British Governent Evacuate Children from Major Cities at the Start of World War II?

Why Did the British Governent Evacuate Children from Major Cities at the Start of World War II?

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Even before War with Germany was accredited, the British government felt that it was necessary to shield the civilian inhabitants, especially children; pregnant mothers, disabled people and teachers accompanied them. The government decided to evacuate children from the major cities into rural areas. They had many reasons for doing this, each of them mainly linked to fear of civilian casualties.

As it was the Germans themselves who began civilian bombings, the British government did have reason to believe that they would adopt this tactic again. It started off in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. It was market day in the Spanish city of Guernica, and the Germans bombed the city for over three hours. The Germans chose this city as their target on that particular day because they knew that their bombings would kill the most people as it was the busiest day of the week.

`At least 1,000 people, most of them civilians, were believed to have died in the raid.'

(Pictorial History of the Twentieth Century World, page. 185)

The bombing of Guernica contributed extensively towards the government decision as this was evidence of Germany's combat capabilities. The government knew that Germany wasn't afraid of attacking civilians in the slightest. From this point evacuation seemed the only feasible option to protect the population and reduce fear.

The British government planners also looked at other common factors. They noticed that the urban cities would be strategic targets for the Germans; they knew this because they were densely populated, with a great deal of industry and they would want destroy factories manufacturing weapons. One government estimate suggested that 4 million civilians may be killed in London alone. These predictions horrified the government. They were totally aghast by what the Luftwaffe might do and had no guarantee on German limitations. Looking at these factors we can see that the British themselves didn't know much about what to expect, however they did identify that cities were more likely to be major targets. For that reason, evacuation did seem a compelling option as it would decrease the risk of casualties based on the government predictions.

The British government wanted to ensure that these children and civilians were safe but at the same time they didn't want to inflict too much worry on their parents, as this would cause panic. So the government began to use propaganda, to portray this in a positive light, both for the children and for the parents.

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When evacuation was advertised, it was more for the mental well-being of parents, the advertisements and leaflets would talk about women being free to work in factories to support the war effort and fill the jobs of other men. This would also support the government concept of high morale, because it would keep people thinking positively. The government prospect was that if children were in safer areas there would be less need for parents to worry. This means that evacuation would be a gain for the government and parents, so there was no motive for the government not to go through with it.

Another reason was that British Government didn't want German victory, to help this happen they had to use a significant amount of propaganda to show the German government that the British were protecting its citizens, and they were prepared for war. Also troops who were fighting abroad would want to know that they're family were safe at home. The idea of evacuation was developing well; the government were slowly but surely beginning to make it appealing to important groups, mothers, fathers and other government officials.

To conclude, the government decided to evacuate children at the beginning of the Second World War for many reasons. They wanted to make sure that the citizens were safe as they were concerned that Germany would adopt their usual tactics of bombing civilians and using air raids. They also wanted to sustain high morale, as they believed that British success depended on the attitudes of the general public. The government thought that the countryside was a less dangerous place for children because it was less likely that they would be bombed there. Evacuation was an excellent idea it seemed a gain for parents and the government. Although many children had traumatic experiences, evacuation almost guaranteed their safety. Given the fact that Guernica had been bombed by the Germans just two years earlier and that Germany was the very first country to implement this scheme, evacuation seemed the only option. Britain sought to protect its citizens in the best way possible and this appeared to be the only way forward. It reduced the fear of civilian casualties as they would be kept away from strategic targets.
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