History, The War in Europe,

The Evacuees of WW2

Plans had been set in place prior to the outbreak of WW2. Some plans had been in motion for more than two years prior, and others for around six months or so. The planning for evacuees began some months before. It was well known that if another world war erupted, this time around it would be far worse as enemies had the resources to bring war over seas. Britain was bracing for aerial battles and bombing raids. Gas masks were issued well in advance, air raid shelters were made and distribution began.

Government poster promoting the evacuation of children from cities

As for the evacuation of vulnerable people, including the elderly, disabled, children and even mother’s, it was a mammoth task. Voluntary services were essential, or one should say, volunteers. The WVS had a massive recruitment drive and six months prior to the outbreak of WW2, volunteers of the WVS received direct training on the evacuation process.

When the time finally came, plans were in place and volunteers at the ready, for the first wave on September 1st, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland. It was a huge task, not only in co-ordinating the movement of thousands of people, but in receiving them at the destination stations, and in having places for them to stay. Some evacuees would be housed with local families, while others would be billeted in hostels set up for the task. There was refreshments to consider. It was the end of summer with fine sunny weather. Food centres were established in towns such as Cambridge, along with clothing centres – members of the WVS laboured intensively collecting clothing donations, sorting through them and making suitable items ready for the evacuees. Bathing stations were also set up. All this was on top of the other duties the WVS carried out, which were many.

Evacuation of children to Shropshire September 1st 1939

After the initial announcement of war, the following few months were generally uneventful. The enemy began causing chaos at sea and on land before gathering pace in the air. As a result of the absence of bombing raids, many parents felt more confident and gradually recalled their children. By the beginning of 1940, many had returned to their homes, but, as the war gathered pace, there would be more evacuations in time.