Evacuation 2

So, Operation Pied Piper meant that the children in areas designated 'danger areas' were to be sent to safe areas.

Who can tell me what 'designated' means?
It means 'given a name'.

The country was divided into three main areas - evacuation, neutral and reception.

An evacuation area was where the government guessed the Germans would attack, neutral areas were where the government thought the Germans might attack and reception areas were the areas thought to be safe from attack and therefore areas where children could be sent.

What sort of places would be ‘evacuation’ areas?
Large cities and industrial areas, but not only London, but Birmingham (halfway up the country), Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. These were areas from which people wold be removed.

What would a ‘neutral’ area be?
An area which had light industries or small industries, not concentrated in a city or certain area. These were areas from which people would neither be sent, nor would these areas receive evacuees.

Can you guess what a ‘reception’ area would be?
An area which would receive those people who were evacuated from ‘evacuation’ (dangerous) areas.

And what about a safe area?
A safe area was anywhere the Germans would have no interest in attacking - countryside, areas where there was no industry contributing to the war effort or anywhere else where there was nothing worth bombing.

Operation Pied Piper was designed to keep safe the parts of the population who were vulnerable.

The evacuees were divided into groups.

The first group was the school children. In those days, you stayed at school until just 14 - and then you could go to work or for further study and then university. Most people left at 14.

Here are two evacuee children - these are models but you can see the labels they had to wear.

The second group was ‘the infirm’. Someone who is ‘infirm’ is someone who is perhaps old, wobbly, disabled, or needs help getting around.

The third group was pregnant women. Obviously, as some men joined the forces, they had left behind their wives who had mysteriously become pregnant. Clearly they couldn’t move particularly quickly so they had to be evacuated.

The last group was mothers with babies or children under school-age (up to about 4 years old). This was the only group which were allowed to stay together when they were evacuated.

Every child - as you can see - had to have a label, Identity Card and a Ration book with them - often tied to them with string. WW2 was the only time in British history that Britons were required to have an identity card.

The problem was, sending children away without their parents - only with their teachers - that parents were reluctant to send their children away. 

What does ‘to be reluctant’ mean?
It means not to be enthusiastic, not to want to do something - unwilling.

What the government did was arrange their own poster campaign to persuade parents that their children would be safer away from danger areas. It was also a propaganda campaign; if you remember, that odd little man Dr Josef Goebbels was in charge of propaganda against the Jews; that was bad propaganda - but propaganda can serve good purposes too.

The posters were a bit ‘heavy-handed’.

What do you think ‘heavy-handed’ means’?
It means very obvious, almost too much, ‘over the top’.

These three posters show government posters - they very much tell parents that they are being uncaring and putting their children in danger if they do not evacuate them.

The thing is, that it worked.

When war was declared in 1939, thousands of children were evacuated within the first few weeks. In fact, it started 2 days before war was declared. Which was great!

However, there was a problem. The Germans didn’t attack until 1940. We’ll deal with that later.

The evacuation of children was actually really well-organised, and the railways, buses and other forms of transport all worked together to get the children out of the danger areas.

However, as children, many people only remembered chaos and disorder; but then, they were children and didn’t have much idea what was going on.

They were told to pack a suitcase, get their ration books and ID cards, and go to their schools early the next morning. There they were given their labels and told absolutely not to lose those labels.

Then they either walked to the local railway station or buses arrived to take them to railway stations and tearfully, mothers - and some fathers - said good bye. 

Evacuation was not for ever, and parents were allowed to visit the children, but only once they had arrived and sent their new addresses home.

Most children seemed to think it was a great adventure, and some were devastated and upset. Teachers had to look after their class; even nuns and other women’s organisations helped out.


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