When Hitler came to power in 1933, British leaders worried that
a new war might begin. By 1934, afraid that British cities and towns
would be targets for bombing raids by aircraft, officials made secret
plans to move infants, schoolchildren and some adults to the countryside
if war began.
In 1938, during the Munich crisis, evacuation was very nearly
started in Britain, but war was avoided and children remained at
home. More detailed evacuation plans were prepared after the crisis.
Evacuation was to be voluntary, with parents deciding whether to
send their children away.
A year later, in September 1939, evacuation commenced several days
before Britain entered the war. From the cities and big towns, schoolchildren,
their teachers, mothers with children under five, pregnant women,
and some disabled people were moved by train and road to smaller
towns and villages in the countryside. The evacuation plan worked
very well and 1½ million children and adults were moved within 3
days, including 600,000 from London. The government was disappointed
because it had hoped to evacuate 3 million people. More than half
of all schoolchildren did not leave their homes in the cities and
There were no big bombing raids on Britain in the first months
of the war and, by early 1940, many children had returned home.
In June 1940, following the defeat of France, people were afraid
that towns on the east and southeast coasts of England would be
bombed, and there was a large evacuation of children from these
towns to safer areas.
When heavy bombing raids started in the autumn of 1940 - the Blitz
- another big evacuation began.
Later, in 1944, when Germany attacked Britain with flying bombs and
rockets, and places like London were badly damaged again, a further
large evacuation of children and mothers took place. This was the
last evacuation of the war. Most evacuees were able to return home
during 1945. Some, though, were orphans, because their parents had
been killed in air raids.