In the first world war , German air raids killed1, 1413 people. By the 1930’s bombers were much bigger and British Government planners expected far greater casualties. They estimated that 600, 000 people would be killed in a few days. They also expected the use of biological weapons in the form of poison gas. From as early as 1935 plans were made to evacuate all children, pregnant mothers, mothers with young children and disabled people from the major cities of Britain, to much safer rural areas. On 1 September 1939 as war became more likely these plans were put into action.
Over 4 days using buses and 4,00 special trains, 1,5million people were evacuated successfully To define evacuation to either success or failure is almost impossible. It was different in the minds of different people. The different sources given do not help in defining evacuation in to just one category. Source A is a negative view on evacuation. It tells of how the culture shock is effecting both the children and the host families. It is written for a textbook so is a relatively reliable source. Source B contradicts source A, it shows evacuation to be a success, for the parties involved, although its reliability is questionable.
It shows how happy everyone seemed to be about evacuation, but they were all aware of the photo being taken and most probably posed for it. Source C is a reliable source as it is an eyewitness account of the events.. This source contradicts the photograph shown in source B, it is an account of what is happening in source B but does not give the same impression of the children’s feelings. It tells of the children being to scared to talk In the picture in source A the children look generally pleased with what is happening (which some were, some even talked their parents into going) they do not look scared.
Source D does not give much indication of success or failure but the fact that the children re smiling gives the slight element that they are happy with the situation and that evacuation may have been successful in their minds. Source E is another eyewitness account so its reliability is not in question. It is from a mother who hosted children who had been evacuated. She tells of how terrible their manners were and gives the impression of her being of a much higher social class than them. This source is showing the failure of evacuation in the minds of the host family here.
Source F is another eyewitness account but this time from an evacuee. This is a turn around from Source E. The evacuee tells of how they were stereotyped to be of a lower class but in fact believed themselves to be of higher class than the host and that the conditions they were forced to live under were of a poor standard. Source G is an extract from a novel. The reliability of this source is questionable as the facts could have been exaggerated for the sake of the novel. It is not an eyewitness account. It is written for children so the harsher and perhaps more truthful details may have been omitted.
Source G shows evacuation tobe a partial failure. Source H is a piece of propaganda encouraging more people to become host families for children being evacuated. This shows that many people did not want to be host families for whatever reasons. This source shows many more families were needed to cope with the rising number of children being evacuated. This source also shows that evacuation was a failure. Source I is an interview with a father who was strongly opposed to evacuation. He does not think that where the children are sent is good enough for his son. The father seems to want his son around if the worst should happen to him.
Evacuation was completely optional. If parents weren’t prepared to evacuate their children then it must have been seen as a failure. As you can see, the majority of the sources show evacuation to be a failure. Here are some more disadvantages of evacuation. Some evacuees were badly treated by their foster parents or became homesick and could never settle into their news surroundings. The evacuation process was not at all well organised as it was pretty rushed. When evacuees arrived in villages they were herded into village halls where they were chosen by their foster parents to be.
The dirtiest or least desirable children were often left to last and were chosen by the billeting officer who job it was to find them a home by knocking on people’s doors in the villages. Several billet officers took the children on themselves as often there were not enough foster parents to accommodate for all the children who had been evacuated. However, there were some advantages of evacuation. It kept children away from the major towns and cities that were later bombed. It also drew attention to the city slums because people in the country were shocked to see the condition some of the children coming from the cities were in.
They were stunned at the lack of nutrition, clothing and cleanliness. It brought about demands to reform and eradicate such social problems. Some evacuees were well looked after and enjoyed their experiences, working on the farms and eating better than they had done at home. As a result of the ‘phoney war’ many children returned home by Christmas 1939 despite government poster campaigns to prevent them from doing so. Later they had to be re-evacuated. Some children returned before the bombing and were not re-evacuated so they were originally evacuated for no reason.