The evacuation of children in World War

Before the War in September 1939, the government understood the risk of air raids and the danger they bring upon major cities in England. Plans for evacuation started as early as 15 years before in 1924; the Air Raid Precaution Committee (ARPC) identified London as the main target, with children as the biggest concern. The government identified, after the ARPC produced a report on the potential disasters of air raid attacks in 1925, that maintaining civilian morale was a priority, and that the fear of bombing would bring it down.

So, to prevent low morale (and also to ensure safety for what would be the future generation and social regeneration of Britain), the technique of evacuation was introduced. ‘Success’, in this case, is somewhat difficult to measure as it is a broad term when it comes to asking if it can be seen as a success in terms of numbers: ‘did the government send out as many people as they hoped to? ’ or as a question of the success in the ‘well being of the evacuees’, and questioned as the overall safety of the evacuees: if death and casualty had been avoided/prevented.

These sources help to show whether or not evacuation in World War Two was a ‘success’. Evacuation can be seen as a success if the evacuees, specifically children were ‘happy’. This is important as being considered ‘successful’ as whether or not they were treated well and were happy would influence the public morale of the citizens remaining in the city. For example, source one shows a group of children with their accompanying teacher in a Berkshire village, 1939. They appear to be ‘happy’ and well looked after; they seem well dressed and smiling in a peaceful, unthreatening looking setting, safely away from the danger of bombs/air raids.

Also, as a teacher is shown to be with them, success id further proven in that the government managed to continue educational services throughout the operation (this point is additionally shown in sources three and four). This suggests evacuation was a success. Though, as the photo shows evacuation in a positive light, it could suggest a propaganda element. However, though possible, it seems unlikely that the photo is staged making it reliable to determine evacuation as a success through child ‘well-being’ and happiness. Furthermore, a view of it being successful in this way is source three, a newspaper extract from Kent, September 1939.

The overall impression given is that evacuation was very much a successful operation. According to the source for the majority, it was a ‘happy adventure and homesickness quickly fled’. Again, this suggests success in the well being of the evacuees, though the source goes on to show this further saying that children were ‘eating high teas beyond their dreams and went up to bedrooms larger than thought possible’. From this we can infer that evacuation was a success in the way that children were living better out in the countryside not only for safety, but for lifestyle as well.

However, this source is much less reliable that source one as it appears to be in fact very biased as a newspaper trying to imply the best out of evacuation to keep morale high, so it is harder to derive a conclusion of success from the source. Another way in which success is shown through the sources is that evacuation did the job that it was set out to do: to protect the children, and those who are at most risk, from the danger of war, specifically bombing in the city. Source five is a picture showing a bombed school playground in London.

From this, we can infer that this is an example of what the government was trying to move children/evacuees away from. It also shows how, being a school playground, children were indeed at risk, thus, by sending the children away, they were, as far as we know, doing a good job of keeping them safe. Overall, this source shows that evacuation was successful as we can infer that children would clearly be safer out of the city, thus justifying evacuation itself. To further justify evacuation and therefore show its success in keeping evacuees safe, source six shows casualties in Liverpool.

It shows that the death rate was generally over 100 and even in May 1941, at 1453. Again, this justifies the need to evacuate and the safety achieved through evacuation. Finally, sources three shows the success in evacuation as the sources show effectiveness and good organisation as a success of evacuation. This encompasses overall efficiency and pre-evacuation planning. To be able to transport the huge amount of 1million (intended 4million) to the countryside required this efficiency and overall, sources three and source two mention the efficiency and order of the transport (trains) and organisation in the countryside.

In source three, a newspaper article from Kent, says that the departures were efficient, reflecting that it was seen to that ‘each child got milk and food’, and followed up with ‘no confusion’. Even source two, though showing evacuation in a negative way, also comments that the trains ‘ran to time’ and that evacuation came ‘complete with teachers’. Having teachers is shown in sources one, three and four as well. In source one, it is shown as a teacher with a group of children, in three there are mentioned ‘teachers in charge’ and in four, the graph shows about 103,000 teachers were evacuated.

The fact that they were able to organise having teachers for the children, as well as having sufficient transport for a million people, shows great planning and effectiveness of the evacuation programme as a success in World War Two. On the other hand, evacuation can be seen as unsuccessful through the sources. One point is that of numbers; according to source four, ‘4 million had been planned for but only 1. 5million went’.

Source four is most probably reliable as it is a textbook extract, with the main aim of ‘to inform’, and thus the historian writing this has no reason to twist the truth. Even though this shows efficiency, it shows how evacuation was not successful, as it didn’t go according to government’s plans. It also could suggest that the public didn’t see quite the same urgency to evacuate as the government. This interpretation is further shown as one of the sources is a propaganda poster discouraging mothers to bring their children back to the city.

This shows this unsuccessful side to evacuation as it shows that mothers needed this encouragement though posters. This shows how evacuation was unsuccessful in encouraging the public. Source seven suggests that social barriers were broken with the ‘effect of showing one side of the nation to the other’, however two sources suggest different: source 2, a source showing a mainly negative view on evacuation, implies that the social responsibility was not evenly spread and that ‘the poor housed the poor and the wealthy evaded their responsibilities’.

This is an alternate view that people weren’t treating the evacuees correctly that goes against mainly source one and three. Source one and three are both from the start of the war (1939 specifically) and therefore could be seen as too specific to generalise a positive experience for the duration on the war and that perhaps source two, a negative view, is a better outlook, despite being a secondary source, on the success of the war as it shows a view over time.

Considering all the elements that determine whether ‘The evacuation of children in World War Two was a great success’, I believe that evacuation was in fact a success in most ways of measuring ‘success’: the overall operation fulfilled it’s aims of protecting children from bombs to safer quieter areas of the country (like source one depicts) and that the government did so in an orderly, effective fashion.

However, I would not call the evacuation programme a ‘completely’ a success nor a ‘great success’ thorough considering that fewer went than planned and that it is difficult to derive a positive experience from the evacuees themselves. A ‘great success’ suggests complete fulfilment of original plans and a large majority happy and well treated in the operation. Not all sources agree with this, thus, overall, I conclude my agreement that evacuation in World War Two was successful, though not a ‘great’ success.