British Government's Decision to Evacuate Children During World War II

British Government's Decision to Evacuate Children During World War II
At the start of the Second World War Britain evacuated around 3,000,000 children and inactive civilians (older people and unemployed women) away from it?s major cities. It did this for a variety of reasons which were both long and short term. The main reason for the evacuation carried out by the British was to protect people from the threat of bombing. The people it really wanted to protect were women and children, and this was because they needed to be kept alive so that Britain could maintain it?s war effort and continue fighting. Also, it meant that after the war it could get back up on it?s feet and maintain it?s population. Therefore this reason for evacuating was mostly economic. The vast majority of evacuations took place from Britain?s industrial cities and those with ports, and this was because it was in these cities where bombing was expected. The most effective way to bomb Britain for the Germans would be to bomb it?s areas of industrial production and docks so it couldn?t continue to function and would starve, because at that time the majority of Britain?s food came from foreign imports. Approximately 60% of the UK?s grain, for example, was imported, and so Britain relied heavily o imports to survive. The British expected these bombing raids for a variety of reasons, and almost over-anticipated them. In the First World War, zeppelins were used to bomb Britain and it had no real defence against them. Also, with the advancement of military technology, Germany had developed it?s bombers and used them to great effect.
The main example of this was in the Spanish Civil War where it almost flattened Spain?s industrial cities in 1939. Many civilians were killed and the most heavily bombed city was Guernica, which is well known for this reason. Also, at the very start of the war Germany had used ?Blitzkrieg? tactics (fast and intense attack strategy, roughly translates as ?Lightning War?) in their bombing of Poland. More specifically on Warsaw due to it?s higher level resistance to the German invasion. This knowledge and expectation caused fear in Britain, and this is another reason for the evacuation from major cities at the start of the war. Although the bombings of Spain and Poland were recent, the fear had been present since WW1 and so is a long term reason. Also, the British government saw that if people felt safe from the fear of bombing, morale would be kept high. In any war civilian, morale is vitally important and this was part of the reason for evacuation due to fear and expectation of bombing. Not only was Britain afraid of the standard bombing, but another common fear was the use of gas in bombing raids. In 1915 the Germans first used gas in combat. This had a very traumatising effect on allied morale, and did more psychological damage than physical damage. Since then, the fear of the use of gas in bombing raids was ever present among the international community, and more specifically Germany?s enemies. Britain therefore decided to protect it?s children from this terrible possibility by evacuating them from the areas expected to be bombed. This reason for evacuating was not as substantial as most, and was part of an accumulating number of reasons which led the British government to decide to evacuate. Keeping women and children safe to continue the population was not the only economic reason for evacuating at the start of the war. Children, the old and infirm, and women who were not in any kind of industry or service were evacuated because in cities at the receiving end of a full war, they simply got in the way. They were not of much use and took up resources so the solution to this was evacuation. Another, perhaps more significant, reason was that children being evacuated also left parents free to work longer shifts and keep the country?s economy and industries going. Therefore, this set of reasons was taken into account for it?s economic benefit. At this time, in the Atlantic sea to the east of Britain, the royal navy was being preyed upon by German U-boats and was losing ships at a rapid rate. This was an embarrassment to the British because their sea power was so renowned. If the British government were to evacuate, it would be seen that they are doing something productive. This would be useful because at the start of the war, hardly any action or progress had taken place in the public eye and so they thought the war was ineffectual and the government wasn?t doing anything. The period at the start of the war was even given the name ?Sitzkrieg? as a pun on the German Blitzkrieg. Also, if the British authorities could publicise the evacuation it could draw the public?s attention away from the crisis in the Atlantic. The result of this is that the British population would not criticise the government and those in it for managing the country poorly. This reason for evacuating is a political cause for the evacuation at the start of the war. The lack of progress in the war, and sinking of ships all happened from 1939 onwards and so this can be classified as a short term reason. Although there were many reasons for the evacuation of children at the start of the war from Britain?s industrial cities, some varied significantly from one another. Some reasons were long term, some short term. And there were also political and economical reasons as well. However the main reason among these is almost certainly the protection of the population which can classified as mainly an economic reason.

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