How much care was really taken?
During the Second World War, children and those at risk were taken to places of safety to protect them from bombs and war damage. Often when we think of evacuation we think of people evacuated from London to the countryside. However, this doesn't tell the whole story. Some children were evacuated to other British Dominions (countries that were part of the British Empire) such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
In this exercise you will find out what happened to a number of children who were evacuated to Canada. Your task is to use primary source evidence to see how much care was taken over these children. Britain was at war, so were the children just put on a ship and sent to Canada, or were their cases carefully looked after? Once they were there, were they abandoned, or were they monitored? How much care was taken? Examine the official government documents and records to find out.
- Examine the 'author' of the source. Why is this source useful to historians studying evacuation overseas in 1940?
- What is C.O.R.B.?
- Looking through the source carefully, arrange the events below in the correct order:
- Provincial authorities took charge
- Transported to provincial clearing centres
- Children classified, transport arranged
- Applications received
- Received by Department of Immigration
- CORB set up
- Children placed in carefully selected homes
- Same agencies could sort out any problem
1. Read Source 1. This is an excerpt from a radio address given by Dr RC Wallace (chairman of the National Committee for Children from Overseas).
- Apart from the British government plan, how else were children evacuated from Britain?
- Why does the speaker say, 'What we can do for these young people is small indeed when weighed against what their parents are doing for us'?
- Why do you think this radio address was broadcast to Canadians?
2. Read Source 2. Excerpt from a radio address given by Dr RC Wallace.
- How old was George when this form was completed?
- Where had he lived before evacuation?
- What had George requested?
- Find four things from the report that show how George is distinctive from other boys at his school.
3. Read Source 3. This is part of George Parr's record.
- What is the problem?
- Remembering what George Parr wanted (Source 3), suggest three reasons why the 'consideration' is sensible.
- What is the final result?
4. Read Source 4. This is an official memo relating to the placement of the Parr children.
- What do you think the large number of documents shows about the standard of care for these evacuated children?
- What does the request from Mr Blois show?
5. Read Source 5. These are just two of many sources relating to George Parr and his two sisters.Further evidence includes a psychiatrist report, special health survey, visitor's report on their foster home, application form from their foster parents, together with many official letters. One letter from Mr Blois (Director the Department of the Public Health Nova Scotia) to Mr Reagh (George's foster father) includes a request:
- What does the author of the letter mean by the words 'top drawer'?
- Why do you think the author asked that the homes should not be especially selected from the 'top drawer'?
6. Read Source 6. Letter from the Office of High Commissioner for the UK, Ottawa, Canada to the Director General of C.O.R.B.
- Why could Celia, mentioned in this source, be described as somewhat big-headed?
- According to this source, how good was the choice of her foster-parents?
- Why was the careful choice of foster-parents so important? [Try to use words from the source in your explanation]
- Would this case be a good example to show parents in Britain worried about evacuating their child?
7. Read Source 7. This is another section from the letter seen in Source 6:
- Where had these children come from?
- Find three examples of evidence to suggest that they were enjoying their foster home.
- Is there any evidence to suggest that their foster father (Mr Kelly) was also enjoying looking after them? Explain your answer.
- Look back to your answer for Source 2c. Compare the broadcast with the report in Source 8 - why would this have been unsuitable to broadcast to Canadians?
8. Read Source 8. This is more of the letter seen in Sources 6 and 7.
9. Read Source 9. Near the end of the letter, the author writes, 'I found it difficult to credit that these...households were not "show pieces"'. Why do you think he wrote this?
- Explain your opinion backed up with evidence.
- Identify whether real care was taken - or were official forms just completed?
- Suggest whether this shows the whole picture - is there any suggestion that there might be different examples of care? Do you have all the evidence you need?