Here are some facts about the evacuation of children and mothers from cities to the countryside which took place in Britain during World War 2.
- The evacuation of children from cities to the countryside in order to keep them safe from air raids began in September 1939.
- Many of London’s children were sent to Wales, Cornwall or Devon. Children were also evacuated to other rural areas, such as East Anglia.
- The children who were evacuated were known as evacuees and the families they stayed with in the countryside were called host families.
- Several thousand children were evacuated overseas to Canada, Australia and the United States.
- The children travelled on special trains from the city to their host families. Many were too young to understand exactly what was happening and many thought they were going on a holiday. Most of the evacuees were sad to say goodbye to their parents and homes.
- The evacuees were all given a gas mask and they had food for the journey to the countryside. Every child had a label pinned to their clothing. This label stated the child’s name, home address, school and destination.
- Although some evacuees didn’t enjoy their evacuation, many of the children adapted really well to country life. They became friends with the local children and, in many cases, stayed in touch with their host family after the end of World War 2.
- It wasn’t just children who were evacuated. Mothers of very young children, pregnant women, disabled people and some teachers were evacuated. The evacuated teachers stayed in the same village as their evacuated classes.
- Efforts were made to keep evacuated brothers and sisters together, but this wasn’t always possible.
- Evacuees and their parents would keep in touch by writing letters to each other.
- Many of the children who were evacuated in 1939 returned home by 1940 because Britain wasn’t heavily bombed by the Germans in the first months of WW2. When the Blitz began children were sent back to the countryside.
- It is estimated that over 3 million people (mostly children) were evacuated during World War 2.
- The official in charge of finding a home for the evacuees was called the Billeting Officer.
What next? Discover more World War 2 facts, learn about how those who remained in Britain’s cities sheltered during air raids, or find out about the Battle of Britain.