Explain the differing reactions of British people to the policy of evacuating children during the Second World War. It is widely believed that the evacuation process of the Second World War was not only successful, but for those involved the time was thoroughly enjoyed. This in fact was not always the case. The reactions of children, parents and families receiving children varied extremely. In this essay I will try to show how different people reacted and why. Any school children evacuating the cities left with their schools.
For many of the children this would be the first time they had left their local community, and for many the countryside seemed like an “Alien” place. When the children arrived from the long and uncomfortable train journey, they would all be taken to a school hall or church. The locals could then take their pick. For many children this was a very scary and isolating experience, as one source accounts “As we got off the bus villagers were stood watching. They came and chose the children they wanted. But nobody wanted me and my brother.
I wasn’t leaving him. I promised to mum that I would look after him. ” The inevitability of separation was very daunting for most children. This wasn’t helped by the severe change in their surroundings. Many people were shocked at the state of cleanliness of most evacuees. Most children had been accustomed to sharing a bed with five or six people and some even using the floor as a regular place to sleep. The change to the much higher quality of living frightened lots of children as one account shows ” Everything was so clean.
We were given face flannels and toothbrushes. We’d never brushed our teeth until then. I didn’t like it. It was scaring. ” Some of the children’s general verminous state was astounding, and often resulted in whole schools being fumigated because of the head lice, scabies, impetigo and septic sores that many of them carried. This was a problem for people receiving children as the sheer lack of knowledge in areas such as personal hygiene and table manners, and resulted in children even considering it perfectly acceptable thing to excrete on the carpet.
During the first evacuation at the brink of war in the summer of 1939, parents were willing to let their child be evacuated hundreds of miles away just to keep them safe. However, as the period known as the “phoney war” occurred, and there had been no attacks on Britain. Parents became sceptical to whether evacuation was in fact at all necessary. Because of this children began to return home in numbers. But the views of the parents soon changed as the German air raids known as the “blitz” started.
Children went back to the safe areas and were separated from their families again. It wasn’t just the parents and children involved in the evacuation from cities that had such varied reactions, the people receiving experienced these as well. The relationship between the receiving families and the evacuees was not always good. This simply was of the divide in class. The evacuation process itself was breaking through lifelong barriers.
These were not only regional barriers but also social ones, as very rarely before evacuation had social classes mixed at all. This didn’t always affect a bond appearing in the cross-social relationship. In fact quite a few children enjoyed their stay so much that they kept in touch years afterwards and some even “Considered them family. ” This leads me to conclude that many people had different reactions and experiences of the evacuation. These were mainly affected by who the person was and their previous social upbringing and back ground.