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Evacuation in Britain during the Second World War

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Introduction

History Coursework - Evacuation 1) Study sources B and C. Which Source is the more useful as evidence about the start of the children's evacuation journey? Source B is a photograph depicting evacuees walking to the station. Obviously, as it is a photograph, it is at least useful in part, as it is definitive evidence showing children at the start of the evacuation journey. It also shows many children and some adults, who are probably teachers. This fits with what was happening at the time: 827,000 children and 103,000 teachers were evacuated in September 1939. The date also fits, as the photograph was taken in September 1939, and evacuation began on 1st September 1939. There are also lots of evacuees, which is accurate as the first evacuation was the largest in the war. However, the source has many limitations as well. The key limitation is related to the provenance of the source. It is unknown who took the photograph, which raises the possibility that it could have been taken for government propaganda. There is much more evidence that supports this theory: the photograph looks very posed as all the children are looking in the camera, waving and smiling. This is inconsistent also, as evacuation was often stressed and traumatic. Another imitation is that there are no parents on the photograph, though one would think that parents would want to say goodbye to their children before they went away. In addition, many sources say that evacuation was disorganised though on the photograph it looks well-organised - which further fuels the idea that it is an example of propaganda, which, though it doesn't show the start of the evacuation journey, it is a useful example of the propaganda techniques were using at the time. Source C is from an interview conducted with a teacher who was involved in evacuation. The content appears to correspond with what actually happened, as evacuation was a distressing process, and the source says, "The children were too afraid to talk". ...read more.

Middle

Firstly, the organisation of evacuation was not always as orderly as Source B shows it. Often it got mixed up and villages expecting children sometimes received instead hundreds of pregnant women. Many hosts chose their evacuees, which was upsetting for those left until last. Source C, which is a teacher's memory of evacuation, speaks of the confusion of evacuation - "We hadn't the slightest idea where we were going". So this shows that evacuation was unsuccessful as the process was not always smooth. As I have said, for many of the evacuees, it was their first time away from home, making it a very distressing time for them. Source C says that "the children were too afraid to talk" on the way to the train station. There is a possibility that many of the problems such as bed-wetting and behavioural problems were caused by homesickness, and, because of the war, it was sometimes harder than normal to contact parents in the cities, making the homesickness worse. So evacuation was unsuccessful in this way as, even though the evacuees were safe, they were regularly very distressed and unhappy. Also, many evacuees had problems with their hosts. In the most severe cases, hosts, often farmers, used evacuation as a way to get essentially slave labour for their farm. Many hosts believed that, as they had to pay for the evacuees' upkeep, they should have to earn it, especially since the money that the government gave host families to help them often was not enough. This led to a lot of evacuees running away, making evacuation unsuccessful as the evacuees were still in danger, in the city. However, the major problems that evacuees had with their hosts were to do with social class. Even though evacuees sometimes benefited from country life, the majority of evacuees found it extremely difficult to fit into a different social class. This made them unhappy, so evacuation was not a success in their eyes. ...read more.

Conclusion

Evacuation was a success for the country as a whole as well. Firstly, it changed people's stereotypical views about those in the countryside. For example, in Source I, an interview with a father from 1940, he says, "They can't be looked after where they're sending them... the Shires. Wales and the West." Many evacuees will have shared this view, but by the end of the war, a lot of them will have learnt that this is not true, especially those who were happy in evacuation. So it was a success as many stereotypical views were changed. Evacuation also made people more aware of each other. Those who didn't live in the cities were unaware of the extreme poverty that existed in the cities. As it says in Source A, "The country people were shocked at the obvious poverty and deprivation of the town children", and source E is similar, in which a host speaks of evacuees "urinating on the walls". This awareness led to a desire to do something about it, and, in 1945, a Labour government was elected with a huge majority of 146, only bettered since by Tony Blair and New Labour's election victories in 1997 and 2001, which had majorities of 176 and 167 respectively. This led to the formation of the Welfare State, including the NHS, Social Security and National Insurance, among other things. So this made evacuation successful as it made people aware of Britain's extreme poverty and laid the foundations for tackling it. In conclusion, I agree with the interpretation that "Evacuation was a great success". Admittedly, evacuation had its problems and setbacks, such as problems between different social classes and poor organisation. However, I think the more important points are that it saved the lives of those who were evacuated, its primary aim, and brought the country much closer together by making people aware of each other's problems and leading to a better Britain after the war. ?? ?? ?? ?? History Coursework ...read more.

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