What was it like in the Second World War?
The Second World War broke out in 1939. The British government expected the German air force to bomb cities and their factories, and so they began a mass evacuation a few days before the start of the war. Around three million school children from the cities at risk were sent to live with foster families in the safety of the country until the war was over.
One safe place was Oswestry, a small town in Shropshire near the border with Wales. People in the town provided billets (homes) for evacuees (people evacuated) from Birkenhead, part of the city of Liverpool on the north-west coast. At the outbreak of war, about 3,300 children and 900 mothers were sent to Oswestry on special trains from Liverpool.
The children from the city experienced a totally new way of life in the country. For the people in the country, too, having so many outsiders coming into their area was a major event. These sources will show what each side thought of the evacuation.
- Were the people of Oswestry proud of their role in the evacuation? What evidence do you have of this?
- What does the source tell us about how the children were welcomed by the people of the town?
- How well-run was the evacuation?
1. Read Source 1. This is an article from Owestry's local paper, the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser, about the arrival of evacuees.
- Who chose where each evacuee would stay?
- How does the evacuee's account (Source 2) differ from the account of the local paper (Source 1)? Think about the following:
- How were the evacuees treated?
- How well was the evacuation organised?
- What was the reaction of people in the town?
2. Read Source 2. These are the memories of Margaret Corlett, who was evacuated from Birkenhead to Oswestry.
- Look at the words Ellen uses in this letter. Write a list of how she describes each of these items below for Birkenhead, then do the same for Oswestry and compare the two lists. What are the differences?
- Surroundings (trees, streets etc.)
- Atmosphere (the quality of the air)
- The letter was published in the local newspaper, the Oswestry and Border Counties Advertiser. Do you think the paper would have published it if Ellen had been unhappy? Give your reasons.