Why the British Government Decided to Evacuate Children from Britain's Major Cities in the Early Years of the Second World War

Why the British Government Decided to Evacuate Children from Britain's Major Cities in the Early Years of the Second World War

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Why the British Government Decided to Evacuate Children from Britain's Major Cities in the Early Years of the Second World War

During the Second World War thousands of children were evacuated from
all of the major cities on Britain. There were several waves of
evacuation including the 1st, occurring at the beginning of the war
and the 2nd in 1940. The children were taken from the danger zones,
usually large towns and possible invasion sites, and sent to the less
popular areas of the countryside. The Government decided upon this
action after considering numerous possibilities and the problem they
were faced with of saving the future population of Britain.

Even before the start of the war the British government had forecast
60,000 lives would be lost within the first six months if no action
was taken to safeguard the population.

Throughout the Second World War, there was a severe threat of millions
of people being killed in Britain. Children were the next generation,
and so the British government thought it essential that the future of
the country was safeguarded, and the children of Britain kept safe.
They were needed to replace the millions of young men lost fighting in
the war. Also Britain had to be rebuilt after the war and people were
needed to run the economy. Another main reason for evacuating children
was that the Government wanted to win the war. Being a total war, to
win the government needed the support of the whole of Britain. They
would not get this if millions of Britain’s women and children were
being killed. The government also wanted to stay in power and
therefore needed to make the British population feel that it was doing
all it could to help civilians during the war, and prevent the killing
of Britain’s children.. The most successful way of ensuring children’s
safety was by means of evacuation. The children were therefore
evacuated into the countryside, where there was little chance of any
bombing or attack.

World war one and the events leading up to the outbreak of ww2 and the

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development of technology further indicated to the government that
evacuation would be necessary. By taking action to prevent disasters
that occurred in ww1, the British population felt that the government
was doing all it could for its people. This would therefore keep the
government in power.

In 1917-18 the Germans had staged 103 raids (51 by airships). These
were mostly upon London and the southeast because of the limited range
of the bombers. 300 tons of bombs were dropped. The British government
predicted that Germany would repeat these raids in the 2nd world war.
They therefore decided to evacuate as many children as possible from
London and the costal areas, which were possible landing areas for the
German troops. The British also had to take into account advanced
technology. The air ships and bombers would have been more advanced by
the 2nd world war than in the first, and so would be able to access
other parts of the country and other major towns. This was one of the
reasons that all major towns and cities were evacuated.

Gas was used greatly in the1WW. The British, as well as many other
countries, used it. The British expected the Germans to drop gas
bombs using aeroplanes or boats as the Italians had done so against
the Abyssinians in 1935. During the Abyssinian crisis, it was not
only gas that the Italians used but also tanks and aeroplanes. The
Government was confident that in ww2, the same technology would be
used, however they would be greatly improved. The use of mustard gas
and the bombing of villages shocked Britain. In most previous wars,
civilians were unaffected. This meant that when ww2 began, British
civilians were frightened and felt vulnerable. The government needed
to prevent panic throughout the country and to keep up morale, which
was essential if we were to win the war. To do this they needed to
make people feel safe, or at least keep children from harm.

To prevent fatal losses in 2WW, gas masks were issued to every person
in Britain. However, small children could not use these masks with
ease, and so gas was still a large risk. This enforced the
government’s decision to evacuate children from Britain’s towns.

The German bombings of Guernica and subsequent air raids shattering
the city of London showed Germany was capable of inflicting immense
losses. The government further reasoned that Germany were likely to
repeat these raids during world war two and once again devastate the
countryside and its population to a greater extent owing to the
advancement of technology. By 1939 it was predicted The air ships and
bombers would have been so far advanced that they were now capable of
bombing other parts of the country and other major towns not
previously reached. With the threat of an invasion to this extent the
government were aware of the immense loss of civilian life that could
occur. Once again they wanted to safeguard the future generation of
their country, for the rebuild f Britain after the war and saw that
evacuating children to areas not likely to be targeted by the bombings
would be a success.

On the 1st September 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany where Hitler
attacked using blitzkrieg (lightening war) methods. This meant fast
surprise attacks using tanks and fighter planes. Dive-bombers were
used and destroyed most of the polish air force on the ground. This
was a quick and easy victory for Hitler. As this method of attack was
so success, Britain assumed that Hitler would not hesitate to use this
type of attack against them. All of the children in towns or villages
near air bases were in immediate danger from the being of the war. If
the Government had decided against evacuation of children from these
places, thousands of children would have been killed, lowering morale
and reducing the chance of staying in power.

Following on from this change is technology; there are many other
causes of evacuation.

The Second World War was a total war, which meant that no country
could win without the support of their civilians. Without this,
nothing can be made in the factories and the economy comes to a
complete standstill, forcing the country to surrender. The war was
predicted to be long and tedious, and morale was essential. By
evacuating children, the country felt confident that the government
was taking action to ensure people’s safety during the war. This meant
tat morale was heightened. Also, with the children safely in the
countryside, women were now free to work in the factories.

The aim of bombing was to cause panic and disruption. Evacuating
children reduced the panic caused. It meant that women did not have to
distress about their children and could concentrate on other things.
As millions of men joined the army in the 2nd world war, women were
needed to work in the factories to produce arms and supplies. They
could work the necessary hours only if they had no children to look
after. The evacuation of children enabled women who sent their
children to do this. The government were keen throughout the war to
evacuate as many children as possible and free women to work.

It was inevitable that millions of soldiers and civilians would be
injured throughout the war and need medical attention. It would have
been unavoidable that all hospitals would have been full. The
evacuation of children enabled women to work full time in the
hospitals and minimise casualties when the towns were bombed. The
nurses could therefore spend more time healing soldiers.

The British government decided upon the evacuation of children for
many reasons including experiences from ww1, protecting the future
generation, enabling women to work during the war and to maintain in
power. However I feel that the most important contribution to the
decision of evacuation was the change in technology. Without the new
inventions of gas, tanks and airplanes, the majority of Britain’s
towns would have been safe from attack. With no towns in danger, there
would be no need to evacuate children and civilians would have been
unaffected by the war. However, there was a large development in
technology and so evacuation was essential to winning the war. The
evacuation proved a great success and the government’s decision to
evacuate was certainly the right choice. Millions of lives were spared
and the war may not have been won if the decision had not been


* Arthur Marwick Britain in the century of total war

* Official record of the houses of parliament Hansard

* Tom Harrisson ‘living through the blitz’

* Michael Rawcliffe ‘Britain at war 1939-45

* Peter fisher, Nicholas Williams past into present

* AJP Taylor English history 1914-1945

* Austrian journalist, Noel Monks writing about Guernica in Spain.
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