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

The British government decided to evacuate the children of Britain’s
major cities because the government were convinced that in the
situation of a second world war that Britain would suffer heavy
bombing from the air. The solution they drew up to protect the British
younger population was to simply move them from densely populated
areas such as London, Sheffield and Liverpool. The plans were drawn up
long before the outbreak of the world war and they were carried out on
September 1st, just two days before the outbreak of war. The plans
were generally carried out without a hitch; children were moved from
densely populated areas into the countryside where the possibility of
bombing would be much less. The areas were called ‘Reception zones’
these were areas like the North Yorkshire Moors, The Lake District and
other less populated areas. The government also had an idea that the
more densely populated areas would be attacked because of the
production of materials from the factories that were in and around the
more densely populated areas. These factories would produce materials
that would help the outcome of the war in Britain’s favour. Another
reason that the British government were convinced the Germans would
bomb British homeland was that the Germans had bombed Britain in the
First World War. Also, the German air force (Lufftwaffe) had taken a
role in the Spanish civil war, where they had carried out mass
bombings on the civilian population.
The organisation of this mass evacuation (which was codenamed
‘Operation Pied Piper’) was on a phenomenally large scale. But people
could see the reason ‘For’ Evacuation and ‘Against’. In the first few
weeks of the start of the war, nearly two million children were
evacuated. The government, which controlled all aspects of the media,
wanted to give the public the impression that evacuation was popular
among those affected and put out propaganda pictures and film to this
effect.

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However, many mothers were very unsure as to the usefulness of
evacuation. Many children were evacuated but not with huge enthusiasm
and when it became apparent that war was not going to lead to cities
being bombed. many children returned to the cities from which they had
only recently left.

The official government story was that all young children had been
evacuated and that the whole process had been efficiently organised
and executed with precision. However, this was not the whole story.

Evacuated children found that their hosts were not always welcoming
and that their two lifestyles clashed. Host mothers complained of
inner city children urinating wherever they felt like it in a house;
locals in rural areas complained of an increase of petty crime - theft
from shops and the like.
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