Why did the government evacuate children from itís major cities in the early years of World War II?



In this essay I will write about why the government evacuated children from itís major cities on the early years of World War II.


During the months leading up to the war. After the German Luftwaffe attack on Guernica, Spain. The British government decided, on the increasing civilian fear, that it needed to protect itís own people, especially children.


They decided the best means of protection was evacuation. This was the suggestion of sending children away from evacuable areas, such as London, Coventry and Newcastle, to reception areas like the Lake District, The Yorkshire Dales and The Fens. This was Operation Pied Piper.


Even before the war was declared the British Government organised the evacuation and the rehearsal of evacuation, of the non-essentials from dangerous evacuable areas to safe reception areas. Non-essentials were people who could not contribute to the war effort. These were children, women (pregnant and non) and teachers, disabled and blind. A total of 1.5 million non-essentials were evacuated.


75% of Londonís non-essentials were evacuated by train. They were given name tags and litterbags; one of the rules was no pets! Children werenít allowed to take whatever they wanted; the government sent leaflets telling parents what should be packed. This was things like a child gas mask, change of underwear, toothbrush, handkerchiefs, a packet of food etc.


A continuous question of evacuation was, Why children? Easy, children were evacuated on one main factor, humanitarian grounds. The priority of evacuation was given to organised child units, pre-schoolers, expectant mothers and the blind and crippled. I mean, these people couldnít help, you canít ask a blind man to fire a gun as he might shot the wrong person, so they ship them out so they are seen as doing good but really everyone knows they are getting rid of a hindrance.


Operation Pied Piper was a voluntary act. Parents did not know where their children were going; mind you neither did the children. All anyone thought was they were going away to somewhere safe.


The government said in the Public Information Leaflet No.3, ďThe scheme is entirely a voluntary one, but clearly the children will be much safer and happier away from big cities where the danger is greatest.Ē Also they said a key objective of evacuation was ďto see to it that the enemy does not secure his chief objectives Ė the creation of anything like panic, or the crippling dislocation of our civil lives.Ē


Another question was, Why evacuation? Why not other methods? Well, evacuation was the simplest of all possibilities. The Government did have air raid shelters and the underground. Country houses and city houses with a garden were suggested to have an Anderson Shelter to protect themselves if they could not get to the public shelters. These shelters were a squat brick and concrete surface, designed to hold 50. They were dark and dank; they had no sanitary facilities either. Their poor construction made them dangerous and deadly. Public shelters, like Anderson shelters were covered in earth and were liable to flooding.


The Underground was used to leave the railways clear for troop movements. The tube was dry and insulated from the noise of bombing; its safety was sometimes illusory. Examples of dangers in the tube, on the 17th September 1940, 20 people died when a small bomb hit Marble Arch subway, ripping white tiles from the walls and turning them into deadly projectiles. But the worse incident to occur in this dangerous shelter was on the night of 14th October 1940, when 600 people were sheltering in the Balham Station, 30 feet below Balham High Road, when a direct hit bust the water main directly above and flooded the station. Those not killed by the blast and falling rubble were drowned. Other Ďhazardsí of sheltering in the tube, were things like, Plagues of mosquitoís, lice, alternate hot/cold blasts of wind through the tunnel and stench.


One witness report was: the stench was frightful, urine and excrement mixed with strong carbolic sweat, and dirty, unwashed humanity.


The authorities relented and only 80 stations were officially used.


A major difference between World War I and World War II