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Evacuation and Evacuees


  • Evacuation and Evacuees

    At the start of the Second World War many thousands of children were taken from their homes, schools and parents and evacuated to towns and villages less likely to be affected by the war. The evacuation of children was not obligatory, but thought the sensible thing to do.

    At 11.07am on Thursday 31st August 1939 the order was given to evacuate. Over the next four days a quarter of the British population (nearly 3,000,000 people) were evacuated to the countryside.

    There were no big bombing raids on Britain in the first months of the war so by early 1940 many children had returned home. When heavy bombing raids started in the autumn of 1940 Children were once again evacuated.

    By the end of the Second World War around 3.5 million people, (mainly children) had experienced evacuation. Some children were evacuated to other British Dominions (countries that were part of the British Empire) such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

    The first to be evacuated were school children - some as young as 3 - and later younger children with their mothers, pregnant ladies and the blind and infirm.

    For some it was an adventure; with their gas masks hung around their neck and a small suitcase of belongings and with a name label attached to their coat button it was something that just had to be done. Children were transported to places in groups and allocated to homes to be cared for, for the duration of the war.

    For some it was a happy time, but for many quite the opposite. Sibling groups were often split up, and placed in unfamiliar surrounding in often quite rural areas and found life very different to that to which they were used to.

    Tired and bewildered, children were taken, usually on a train accompanied by teachers as their travel guardians, to their destination to be picked by their host family whose home became their 'billet'.

    People's memories of being evacuated vary greatly - for some it was a happy time, full of adventure in the countryside and time spent with people who came to love them. For others it was a time of great sadness- not all host homes were the perfect host, and some remember ill treatment and sometimes even cruelty.

    At the end of the war, children were returned home, those that were lucky enough to have homes and families to return home to - some were not so lucky - they had no parents or homes to return to.

    Evacuee Links

    Evacuation Overseas

    Between 1869 and the 1940's nearly 150,000 children were shipped to Canada, South Africa and Australia (mostly to those last two countries between 1920s and 1970s). Many were not orphans but were deserted or sent without parental consent.

    There are many youngsters in the Home Child Index that were both born and sent between the censuses so do not appear on any UK census so it is worth searching the database even if you do not have a known missing ancestor as you may find a relative that you did not know existed.

    If you have questions please Private Message George. This is a genealogy subject which is close to George's heart. Earlier this year she met the grandson of her home child which was a wonderful moment after searching for so long.

    There are still many youngsters not being investigated or researched, is your child one of them?

    Listed below are the best sites to use if you have a child in your tree who you cannot find a death for, or have lost complete track of. These sites can also point you in the direction of other useful sites.

    FTF Online Magazine:
    Canadian Home Child

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