LANARK-L ArchivesArchiver > LANARK > 2006-11 > 1162506590
From: "Maisie Egger" <>
Subject: [LANARK] WWII Evacuees- Part One - Social History
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 14:29:50 -0800
First of two parts:
When I read the following article it reminded me of my own childhood in Glasgow when I told my mother flat out that I refused to be evacuated. This was reinforced when I looked out the back bedroom window and saw this big long line of wee souls, with their gas masks in square cardboard boxes slung across their shoulders, being walked a long way from Balornock, downhill to the railway station in Springburn. Some had their mothers with them, while most of them had teachers as their caregivers.
Two of my girlfriends had different experiences as evacuees. My friend Anne and her brothers and sister were sent to Ellon, Aberdeenshire, where a German submarine fired on this part of the east coast (and here they'd been sent there for safety). Anne had a very positive experience as an evacuee and stays friendly with the family to this day (though the mother is long-since dead). Rena, my other friend, had a very negative experience where she was not given needed medial attention and where she and her brothers and sister were not fed properly. Her mother quickly brought them back to Glasgow.
The memory of these wee souls, some of whom were very young, and who must have had severe separation anxiety, has stayed with me for 67 years! I thought some of you might be interested in "visiting" memory lane with me from the article I read on the IRELAND rootsweb. It's a great site that encourages such articles and genealogy research -- a lot like the Lanark list, if the "thought polis" don't stick their oar in to object!
MEMORY LANE: 1939 -- "London is now a childless city. A hush lies over the parks. The lawns where primly starched nannies pushed their prams, where children played and dogs raced, are almost deserted. It is as though a modern Pied Piper had swept the city from end to end. And this is true also of other large cities in England and Scotland. Under the Government Evacuation Scheme, about 2,000,000 children and mothers were taken from their homes in congested metropolitan areas and scattered over the countryside into new homes and new environments. This, the greatest rearrangement of population in modern times, was completed in four days. Already it has cost half a billion dollars. In reception areas the influx has on an average upped the population 25%. That increase, in terms of extra water and food, sanitation, medical care and schooling, is a formidable burden for any community ...Britain's crowded cities present some of the world's likeliest and most vulnerable bombing targets. Unless millions are to be trapped, evacuation had to be treated as a national necessity, to be solved in an organized, almost compulsory manner. Neville CHAMBERLAIN called it "the greatest social experiment which England has ever undertaken." It cast 2,000,000 city people, most of them poor, many from the slums, into a rural life which they did not understand. Lower-class English are not used to being told by their government what is best for their children. Upper-class English families, many of whom have taken children into their homes, are not used to rubbing elbows with strangers from different walks of life. In addition to its social problems, evacuation disrupted the nation's transport system for four days when every wheel was needed to concentrate men and arms. But the children, England's future, must come first.
Sudden as evacuation was, plans for it had been drawn up immediately after Mr. CHAMBERLAIN's return from Munich. England, Scotland and Wales were divided into areas of three types: dangerous areas, from which all children up to 16 and mothers with children under 5 should be removed; neutral areas, moderately dangerous but not congested, which should be left as they were; reception areas in rural districts. Local health authorities, making a house-to-house canvass, figured the capacity of every home on the basis of one person per habitable room. With 100,000 social workers, the gigantic survey was completed in six weeks. Meanwhile, every school in evacuation areas registered children, the workers struggling against such arguments as: 'Wot! Let my Tommy sit with strynge people? Garn, I needs 'im in the pub!' The plan was not compulsory but the teacher is highly respected by the poorer English citizens, and the roster was soon complete. Meanwhile, for three months the railroads and other transport agencies wrestled with the problem. Timetables for thousands of special trains had to be made; 300,000 children would have to be cleared from London alone on the first day.
When evacuation started, the machinery functioned with incredible precision. Take, for instance, the little boys of Junior school on Commercial Road, East London. At 5:30 a.m. on September 1, they assembled in the school yard. Each child had a tag on his coat lapel with his name, address and evacuation number of the school, 1017. On his schoolroom desk he found his haversack, also marked, containing a change of underwear, toothbrush, towel, handkerchiefs, night clothes, and a 48-hour ration of bully beef, biscuits and chocolate. After inspection of gas masks, the urchins marched off to Aldgate subway station. Seventy-two subway stations in London were closed to normal traffic that day. The rest of the city stood still while School 1017 was whisked, a hundred strong, to Waterloo Station. The teacher in charge and his assistants, each with ten boys, had instructions on a printed card: '1017, Waterloo platform 12, 6:45 a.m.' Punctually, School 1017 marched two by two through the gate, scrambled for window seats on the train. The youngsters, excited at the idea of going to the country, pressed their noses to the windows and grinned as they left London. Two hours later they were decanted at Reading, 40 miles away, where the city council was ready with buses. Twenty children and two teachers climbed into each. One group, assigned to a nearby village, half an hour later drew up to the vicarage. Theo vicar and his helpers were ready with piles of sandwiches and hot tea. Villagers who had volunteered to take children chose the ones they liked best. Every little boy of 1017 found a new home within five hours."
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