D-day was heralded as first enormous invasion of the allied on German claimed soil. The army generals and the government wanted to give the impression of complete power and might in their final push to abolish the Nazi slavery of Europe now they had the backing of America and Canada. It was perceived as almost a religious crusade, as though God was supporting their every move so it couldn’t possibly fail. This confidence and sense of glory made the war seem more justifiable as people felt they were serving the righteous side.
People on the home front were well informed of the fact the British were not defending but were on the offensive, this change in situations inspired people on the home front who were growing tired of the continuing news on the Atlantic battles and artillery battles. This mighty push was seen as courageous and raised peoples hope that the end was nigh. Churchill was in charge and was organising the campaign at this crucial juncture so the whole nation was on tenterhooks to receive his commands. The nation was made to feel everything depended on this mission, as it flooded the press.
This encouraged the country to work even harder to achieve this goal and also worry less about the long-term situation as they were focusing on the present. When the troops landed on the coast of France and Normandy it was seen as histories greatest oversees operation which was true, but also glossed over the fact that they still had a bloody battle at a disadvantaged position once they reached mainland. Evacuation The war was expected several years before 1939 and preparations were already taking place before its’ declaration to move children into more rural and predicted safer areas.
Away from the densely populated cities and industrial places where German bombers would likely target when the war commenced. Other preparations were made to limit causalities in the of air raids and predicted gas attacks; gas masks were compulsory items to have, thousands of Anderson shelters were erected for people to hide in during raids, rationing began to help soldiers and make sure everyone was kept healthy, the local defence volunteers and many other similar organisations were established to help and warn people in raids, signals e. g.sirens were created and the blackout was enforced to prevent German pilots from pinpointing a certain location.
The community were encouraged to be involved in all these preparations, which also made them aware of the imminent threat posed by bombing thus persuading them to leave their children in the houses of strangers. In 1939 there was the largest mass evacuation of people in Britain’s history, from major cities and 3. 5 million people were arranged to be evacuated to reception areas. Most were normal children, others from schools and hospitals etc.
This huge amount of people who were confused and uneducated about the situation inevitably posed many problems to the process. For a start most people had no idea of where they were heading, for they were not told before hand and the number of evacuees far out numbered the people willing to house them. This was all due to poor organisation by the government, despite notifying people about the plans months before. But considering the sheer amount of people involved the process run smoothly in the government’s perspective and many evacuations worked with out a hitch.
The government had also set up first aid stations showing they were obviously attempting to cope with all the inevitable problems that would arise. Many very poor children would arrive at reception areas with various health conditions such as scabies, lice and due to cold weather and lack of adequate clothing cold burns often formed. The clinics provided basic care before they were sent to hosts. On their identity cards they has health related information and often the kids that appeared unhealthy would be unfairly treated and hosts would be less likely to want them.
The government tried to persuade families to separate from their loved ones by using propaganda. The predictions of casualties e. g. 4,000,000 in London far surpassed the actual figures and were there fore grossly exaggerated. Britain had been expecting air attacks for many years as the hostilities and threats had been building for several years before the war. Leaflets and Posters were important techniques of spreading their message about the evil extent Hitler would undertake to achieve his aims.
This, initially discouraging and potential fear mongering way, proved to be effective as people were more intensely willing to participate in order to save their people and foil Hitler’s plans to destroy public morale. The fact they used propaganda so wide spread proves people obviously needed a lot of convincing and the dark nature of the propaganda ( as in source B7 ) suggests the government were desperate to make an impact in order to attain their goal of the complete evacuation of children from cities.
Subsequently when dealing with three million people there were many cases of disaster where the propaganda had inflicted panic instead of the hoped controlled movement. Sir John Anderson who as organising evacuation did not help this emotional upheaval, as he had a cold and detached not understanding nature. Evacuation was established to firstly protect people especially children from the threat of bombing. Children were obviously the most crucial group of people for they would continue the next generation.
This also kept morale high as people in battle and working at home knew their children were safe and didn’t have to worry about them being killed or injured in air raids. It also allowed rural communities not involved so much in the war effort feel occupied and of use thus supporting positive morale in these areas too. However, the fact that children were sent to random homes meant that they had to deal with whatever situation they were landed in, often their were clashes of class and social statue, sometimes this resulted in a positive outcome as poor children found themselves in welcoming circumstances.
This sudden mix of classes had never occurred before, as people who lived totally separate and different life styles had to live side by side and deal with the prejudice that had been fed to them through society over countless generations. This new perspective to life sometimes highlighted the conflicts between people but often created a sense of unity in the face of a common enemy. This mystery of a new experience often initially excited children and many had a very interesting and free time when away from the city and the stress and restraints that went with it.
Others, particularly younger children missed their homes and parents dreadfully and did not enjoy the peculiar circumstances they were forced into. The children themselves were all labelled so they could be identified and told to take a few essential possessions. When they reached the trains stations and bus stations they were filed onto the transport and many were separated from their parents and placed into groups with a guardian of one of the 100,000 teachers participating. Over 3,000,000 were evacuated in the first 4 days of September, which by any terms is an astonishing feat of organisation and co-ordination.
When the order was sent at 11:07 August 31st few imagined that within a week a quarter of the population would have been evacuated. The stations were dense with people saying their good byes or finding luggage or lost siblings, this caused great confusion and the distress of moving to an unknown location built up tensions of fear resulting in anger. Smaller children who didn’t understand the situation must have felt distraught at leaving their parents, these early traumatic experiences must have left deep impressions, especially as many were ignorant to when they would return.
Others simply found it an exhilarating adventure and treated it like a holiday, particularly those who went to boarding schools. Those in the poverty stricken slums of the cities jumped at the opportunity to go to the country. Obviously in a movement this massive there was a great variation in opinions and attitudes towards evacuation but the underlying intension was similar for most people as they had seen the effects of severe bombing in other parts of the world-; do what’s best for the country and it’s future unsurprisingly seemed the most important plan of action.
This overall idea allowed stereotypical images to develop in peoples minds over how children had to deal with the situation e. g. ‘Grin and bear it’ and ‘don’t complain’. When reaching the reception areas local councils would line up the children and hosts simply picked their favourite. As this was often based on superficial first impressions many children were left feeling rejected and humiliated, this seemed a rudimentary way of selecting people, but in the end left no muddle over names and identities and matching people up.
This random selection and the lack of restriction to who hosts could be occasionally left vulnerably children in dangerous hands of abusers. Because it was simply luck of the draw some had equally great experiences as expected and it is clear that only a minority, once settled had a miserable time. Ministry of health reporters issued statements declaring a glossy positive outlook of evacuation, so as not to worry the people and also the government, allowing people to begin concentrating no the more imminent problems of combat in war.
Generally this statement is true as the main motivation to evacuate such large numbers was to save lives and this certainly worked, as the millions of estimated causalities did not happen and the country could run more smoothly because of this conclusion. In most cases people were more at ease with their children’s safety and there fore could focus on work and soldiers on the battle front. Women The Second World War affected the lives of women dramatically.
Since the late 1800’s women like the suffragettes had been protesting for women’s rights as they were discontented with societies attitude to women as being inferior and demanded more equality between the sex’s. Although through the early 1920’s women did gain the right to vote and became more acceptable in some work arenas e. g. nurses clerks typists (jobs considered appropriate for women), the opportunities had only opened slightly, but the reality was most women performed exactly the same role as previously.
However, many women were settled in the traditional way of life they led and felt the home was their first priority and there fore didn’t particularly feel the necessity to change. The government realised that due to the unusual circumstances it would be most practical to enrol the services of women to fill the occupation vacancies in industry whilst vast numbers of men were recruited into war. Originally many government ministers were reluctant to conscript women in to work, arguing that a woman’s responsibilities were in the home caring for children.
However, as more men left it became more important to keep the country producing munitions etc. instead of women simply staying at home, so the government lead by chamberlain agreed to ask for women’s volunteer assistance. They made a national campaign advertising for help in a huge range of jobs, using posters, billboards, leaflets etc and encouraged applicants by saying it was imperative for the war effort. Many people were initially surprised at the unprecedented mass surge of women who signed up for industry working and the land army.
Particularly after the depression of the thirties many working class women jumped at the new opportunities that had aroused and were motivated by the promise of money of their own. A minority of women objected to war work believing it detracted from their house work and others detested the prejudice that occurred and the lack of equal treatment; the fact women were paid 60% of an equivalent male employer, this proves how women were seen as less productive and skilled as a man. It also shows how society expected women to work for the good of the nation even with lower wages and how most women just accepted this.
Many women who enrolled for work had never been away from home or worked for an income before and took on the new opportunities with enthusiasm and determination. The country was finally willingly giving women the chance to show their capability to perform in areas they had never had access to previously, this encouraged women to work to their limits. Government officials made reports of the exceptional standard of work occurring in the factories by newly appointed women and how it equalled if not excelled that of the prior male labourers.
The new work and money entitled women to be more independent and opinionated. As they become more liberated and confident in their positions, some began to demand more equality for they realised the worth of their aid. The whole population became more and more involved in the war effort and the new workforce was described as “soldiers with different weapons”, hence the name given to this condition – “total war”. Women in the home looking after the family also found themselves in new situations as the head of the family was always the man or husband and in most cases he had been sent to war.
These women now had to organise and take the responsibilities of the man; they were now the dominant figure in the family, which had hardly ever occurred before. The decisions women made were complicated by the limitations of the rationing of food, clothing and general materials. They were in charge of the ration booklets for the family and had to pool all the coupons they received to obtain food and other items. Because civilians were targeted during the war they also had to deal with temporary housing, evacuation and ensuring everyone was safe during bombing raids.
Often women like this joined the local civil defence or nursing posts to help their community. They were depended on to manage serious situations in bombing raids and such like, that before the war would have been considered too important to be arranged by a woman. Many women there fore felt more appreciated and occupied than previously, so wanted to contribute. The government enthused this attitude by using positive propaganda suggesting how useful and essential women’s work was.
Posters of physically fit women doing hard jobs and showing satisfaction in their work were often used. This rose the morale of many women and made them more unified with the war effort which obviously helped in the manufacturing of munitions, saving food for soldiers, keeping the economy stable and saving lives on the home front. Many were encouraged to attend USO balls where they danced and befriended lonely soldiers, young women had freedom social as well, and this also allowed them to enjoy the war and the new experiences it entailed.
Due to the new independence women had acquired some found themselves more sexually liberated and due to their uneducated and ignorant ideas of sex found themselves in difficult positions with no one to understand or express their feeling to. The government at the time did not think to inform women about sex and it’s possibly consequences, so occasionally there were cased of illegitimate children being born and mothers being shamed by their peers.
However, the government did publish leaflets containing information on ways to become self sufficient e. g.growing vegetables making food that was healthy and of good value, being resourceful with all house hold equipment, making suitable cloths and recycling materials etc. all these suggestions aided women in their duties and showed how they could be generally more efficient.
Government posters were used to make people, especially women aware of the consequences of wasting products in a time of shortages e. g. the cartoon character “squander bug”. Posters were also produced highlighting the significance of not discussing the war in public in case German secret agents were listening.
All these legitimate warnings kept peoples minds focused on why they were doing what they were doing and there fore prevented opposition from other people who didn’t agree with women having the authority they did. All the concerns and anxieties over what was socially acceptable made the war an exciting yet confusing time for women. They had to combine their traditional values with this new independence, but also keep in mind it was a temporary situation and whatever happened in their lives now was likely to change again when the men returned from war.