In the September of 1939 over a million school children living in the larger cities and towns of Great Britain were moved temporarily from their homes to places that the government considered safer usually out in the countryside and the more rural areas. This happened because the British government were worried that when war was declared between Germany, British towns would be targets for bombing raids by aircraft. Evacuation could be considered a success because many poor inner city children who had never experienced the luxury of rail travel before were able to travel from outside inner cities.
Even fewer children had been to the countryside. Many of the children thought evacuation would be something of a holiday or a great adventure as they were waiting at the train station singing patriotic songs and once they arrived at their destination they were looked after by caring foster families and many experienced a much better way of life in the countryside. One girl when asked by a local newspaper reporter whether she liked here new family responded, “It was really nice I had never been washed all over before”. This shows one good aspect of evacuation.
On the other hand many children suffered the trauma of separation and isolation and were terrified by the prospect of being removed from there parents as for the most part the parents did not accompany there children. And once they arrived to their destination they were unaware of where they were to be staying. Foster parents typically chose the cleanest, most healthy looking children, whilst the poorer more uncared for children were often left and were placed in the care of Local Authority, who forcibly placed the children with families who did not necessarily want to care for the children.
Uncomfortably, this resembles all too closely the 19th century slave market and the less well off children were often left with little self esteem and some were even neglected in the care of families who were forced to care for them. With the lack of a government body to safeguard the welfare of the evacuated children they were effectively in the hands of the foster carers, some were unlucky and faced hard physical labour, and a few faced physical and mental abuse.
Children were so unhappy that they ran away from their foster carers or were returned to their homes in a very short time. Source A is a photograph which shows children walking to the train station in September 1939; I consider this source to be reliable as it is an actual photo which captures the actual moment in time. There is also a large of number of children in the photograph, they all seem to be happy and smiling, laughing and waving at the camera, because of the number involved I can assume that the overall mood was happy.
However, this source could be unreliable as it is possible it is Government propaganda to try and convince parents to evacuate their children and there is a change that it could be completely staged. Another unreliable factor is that if a camera is pointed at children they will generally laugh, smile and wave, however this may not reflect how they are actually feeling and the light hearted mood my be just because the camera is taking their photograph.
Another unreliable point is that the photo is in one particular area, it is quite possible that one minute further along the road children were crying, distraught and unhappy. Overall this photo shows the success of evacuation, as it shows children and parents laughing and smiling on the way to be evacuated. Source B is an extract of an interview with a teacher as she accompanies children being evacuated from her school. This source is reliable as the person who was being interviewed was actually there and witnessed the actual event taking place.
In 1939 teaching was a well respected profession and I would expect that she would be trustworthy and honest. A negative point is that the interview took place nearly 50 years after the actual event took place, her memory could have faded and altered with time, I am also unsure of her age, mental and physical health in 1988. This is also just the account of one person and another may see things completely differently. Overall this shows the failure of evacuation as children were unaware of where they were going and parents also had no idea of which part of the country their children would end up at.
Also, many Fathers were fighting in the war, which left Mothers alone in the city. Many felt lonely and venerable without their families. Source C is a quote from Carries War, a book written in 1973. The source is reliable as I would presume that the author has researched evacuation and the war, and has written with historic accuracy. On the negative side, the book is fictional and was written to entertain an audience, there is the possibility that the author has stretched the truth and exaggerated to entertain the reader.
I also know very little about the author and her experiences of the war – she may have little or no knowledge at all of life for evacuees as because the book is fictional, there is no requirement for facts to be used. Overall I think this source shows the failures of evacuation as many of the foster carers assumed that all children from the cities were poor. Many felt forced to care for children against their will and made wrong assumptions regarding the children’s background and wealth. Source D is an advertisement issued by the government appealing for more people in Scotland to provide homes for evacuated children.
The source is reliable as it is an actual advert that was published in 1940 which is during the war period and reflects the need for further homes for children. It is also reliable as it was issued by the British government and is authentic. However the negative points are that it is propaganda and may not reflect the truth regarding the children’s happiness away from home. The advert may also make those who had not already applied feel guilty and apply because of the guilt and not necessarily because they wanted to provide a home to the evacuees.
Overall this shows the failures of evacuation as there were not enough families volunteering to provide homes and people had to be forced to take children – this may have resulted in poor care for evacuated children as they were unwanted in many homes. Source E is an extract from the observer involving a father being asked about the evacuation of his son. I consider this source to be reliable as it is an extract from an official document. The interview was conducted in 1940 which was during the war period and reflected the feeling of the father during the war and about the real option of evacuation of his son.
On the negative side this is only the opinion of one parent, and does necessarily represent the opinion of the majority of parents, without further interview extracts it is difficult to gain a true reflection of the feeling of the majority of parents. This could also be negative propaganda used by the government. Overall this shows the failures of evacuation as many parents were reluctant to, and refused to send their children to unknown destinations in the countryside. Source F is a film called ‘Good Night Mr Tom’, this is a film about the evacuation of a boy to the country side who is cared for by a kind man.
This could be considered a reliable source because the director will have researched the subject matter. The negatives are that the programme is fictional and were made to entertain an audience; the film was made after the war so the story may easily have been changed to suit the current day. I am unsure if the author experienced the war and the evacuation. Overall this shows the good points of evacuation as the film tells the story of an abused child who was unloved at his home in the city but found a caring and loving home due to evacuation.
In conclusion I think that evacuation was a great success as it saved thousands of children’s lives, gave many children from rough inner cities the chance to travel to another part of the country and witness another way of life. Evacuation also provided many children with loving foster homes and many formed life long relationships with their carers. Although negatives exist, such as trauma of separation from parents/brothers and sisters, the risk of cruel foster carers, the overall aim to protect children’s’ lives was achieved.