The Decision of the British Government to Evacuate Children During World War II

The Decision of the British Government to Evacuate Children During World War II
There were many reasons why on the third of September 1939, the British government put into motion the largest mass-movement of people in the country?s history; moving nearly three million people from towns and cities to the countryside. These reasons can be categorised into three main groups; military reasons (the legacy of World War One, keeping soldiers well equipped, protecting the future fighting force, requisition of buildings), political reasons (keeping support for the government, government?s duty to protects its people, maintaining stability) and economic reasons (freeing up human resources). The government felt that if an enemy bombardment on major cities were to happen, it would undoubtedly come from the air. This was because the British government believed that their navy was far superior to that of Germany, and a sea-bourn invasion would be impossible. Advances in technology from the First World War, especially in aircrafts, made massive bombardments of major cities possible. It was therefore necessary to evacuate children from not only coastal town, such as Liverpool, but also in land cities such as Manchester in order to save the lives of the children in these cities. The government had many motives for minimising deaths, especially in the cities. Minimising deaths would help maintain stability in the working classes and this would keep the economy stable, as well as keeping support for the government. There were also military reasons for wanting to minimise deaths, as the government had learn from World War One that the conflict could, and probably would, go on for many years, so they needed to protect the future fighting force. World War One had been the first major conflict in which citizens had been legitimate targets. During the First World War, German zeppelin airships and Gotha bombers had carried out bombing raids on London. Although only five thousand people were killed in all four years of the war, it had a profound psychological effect upon the citizens Britain, who now knew they were no longer safe if war broke out again. Also, the bombing raids of World War One demonstrated the potential of aircrafts to carry out air raids on towns and cities, and as early as 1922, Lord Balford spoke of an "unremitting bombardment of a kind that no other city had ever had to endure" if another world war started. Since the First world War there had been major improvements in technology in aircrafts and bombs, this meant that the enemy would be far better equipped for bombing major cities that in the First World War. The government in the years leading up to the Second World War therefore knew of (and even overestimated) the devastation that could be cause by air raids of Britain?s major cities, so felt is was vital to move more vulnerable members of society to safer areas of the country in order to save lives and keep the death toll to a minimum and this, as with the cause above, was important to the government in a number of ways. One of the main reasons for the government evacuating millions of children to safer areas of the country was to protect lives. Any government in power through democratic elections has a duty to protect the lives of its people. A cynical view of this would be that the government were only protecting their future fighting force in preparation for a long, drawn out war, as had been experienced in World War one. There were also political reasons for protecting a future fighting force, as the main aim of the British government in the Second World War, as in most wars, was to win, and if this failed, there would no longer be a British government. As the Trenchard Weir Doctrine put it ?the bomber will always get through?, because of this, the only way to protect the children from the bombardment would be to move them to safer parts of the country i.e. evacuate them. Another reason for the government evacuating children was to minimise the psychological effect that an enemy bombardment would have. It was important for the government to keep the support of the British people throughout the war in order to keep the home front functioning as it should. This was vitally important, without the home front the war could not have been won; as the soldiers would not have been supplied, the government would have lost the support of the people, and the economy would not have been as productive. This made the home front very important for the government. If many people, especially children, were dying in the air raids then the moral of the British people would drop, and could lead to a lack of faith in the government?s efforts and a drop in support, and support was vital for the Government. The government also needed to keep moral high to keep stability both in the country and on the fighting fronts. The government feared that the men in the army would not be as successful in the war if their attention was on their children at home rather than on fighting. And the government was of the opinion that it was the poorer people in the army that were most likely to ?crack up?, so keeping their children safe therefore helped the army in the war effort. Keeping morale high, both at home and on the fighting front, was a key issues for the government when organising evacuation. The government also needed to free-up resources in the towns and cities during wartime, both buildings and personnel. Sending millions of children to the countryside during the war freed up many school buildings, to be used for military purposes, and hospital beds for injured people. But evacuation also freed-up many parents to take up posts to help the war effort. In conclusion, there were many reasons for the government deciding to evacuate children in the early years of the Second World War and many causes were linked in with one another with each reason having numerous motives tied in with it. But the main reason, which underpins all other reasons, is the legacy of World War One, as even though few people died in the air-raids in World War One it showed the potential of bombing raids and it was with this in mind that the British government planned evacuation, and many of the other reasons for evacuation were only known to the government because of the experiences of World War One.

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