Melissa Brettle 10M Wednesday 28th January 2009
Why did the British Government decide to evacuate children from Britain’s major cities in the early years of The Second World War?
There were a variety of reasons why the government decided to evacuate children from Britain's major cities in the early years of the war. The government had come to the conclusion the the countryside would be safer for children This was due to the happenings of the War in Spain, where major industrial cities were targeted for aerial attacks. Children were the future, meaning that they would be the ones to be future lawyers, firemen and business owners, they had to be kept safe or the future would be lost. The country would be sure to destroyed during the war meaning that when the war was to finally come to an end Children would be needed to reconstruct the ruined cities, this would mean having to keep the children safe until they were able to do this. In addition to this, evacuating the children meant that they were out of the way this would help mothers concentrate on the war effort. The women, would be able to focus on helping the women's land army, get work in munitions factories or join the Air Raid Precaution, without having to worry about looking after the children. Another reason is that, if children stayed in the major cities they were bound to witness various atrocities of war, this could leave them mentally and could potentially affect them in later life. Since World War One technology had been developed making attacks even more likely then they previously would have been, with this in mind the government evacuated children away from the places that were most likely to fall under attack. Probably the most important of all the reasons to evacuate children away from Britain's major cities in the early years of the war was that children were the future. If the children were to die then there would be no future generations to rebuild cities or take jobs and careers vital to society.
To keep women focused on the war effort was a reason why the government decided to evacuate children from the major cities in the early years of war. Before the war a woman would have been at home taking care of her husband and children. When the war broke out, they were able to re-assume the role of the worker meaning they worked in factories, the majority of these were war related. As well as work in factories a lot of spare time was devoted to various organisations which would help the war effort from the home front. All of this would add up and mean that there would not be any time to look after their children and manage their homes. The government too this into consideration when making their decisions and decided because of it the children would be best in the countryside. As a direct result women were more free to join the various organisations and begin work in munitions factories. The women were also being conscripted from ages nineteen to thirty, this meant that they actually had to help in the women's land army, Air Transport Auxiliary or in factories This was a reason for the evacuation of children because the concentration on the war effort would definitely be an aid in Britain winning the war. The Government were able to get rid of the distraction and time consuming task of raising children and were able to attain women that were able to help and make up for the lack of men.
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The fact that Britain was expected to face the bombing of it's major cities was a reason for children to be evacuated from major cities in the early years of the war. The destruction of major industrial cities of the opposition would be a priority to Germany as it would completely destroy the countries industry, with a ruined industry Britain would be far more likely to loose the war. Spain had been involved in a war prior to World War Two were her industrial cities were targeted for air raids and bombings. The British Government were aware of this and believed that Germany would too target Britain's major industrial cities. Technology was a lot more developed since the last time Britain had faced aerial attacks which would mean that planes were harder, better, faster, stronger and their ability of carrying a larger load of bombs convinced the government that they would be facing aerial attacks from Germany. The government's expectation of aerial attacks and bombing was a reason to evacuate children from Britain's major cities because they would be reducing the death poll and the casualties, this would mean less crowding in hospitals, it was also more practical to evacuate children beforehand rather than when the bombing had began otherwise more lives would have been lost.
Another reason for the governments decision to evacuate children to the countryside was to protect the children from witnessing the atrocities of war. Scenes from the blitz would have been horrifying for adults and for children it would have had the impact to permanently scar the child and cause problems throughout later life. During the bombing children would have been able to wander outside and see the destruction of their neighbourhood, the places they have grown up in and come to love, they would have seen dead corpses flung lifelessly among the rubble. The sights were terrifying enough without the loud explosions and the roars of the planes flying overhead. With just about two months worth of the blitz, with bombing every night there was no doubt it would have left a permanent mark on the children. This was a reason because the government would have wanted to keep the children free from witnessing those horrors in order to have children who did not have fears of loud noises and bright light and were mentally stable.
The new developments in technology were reasons for the government's evacuation of children from major cities. This was because it made the chances of an attack rise. Since World War One planes had been developed into machines that were advanced and able to do so much more than a simple Zeppelin from 1916. When war had broken out planes were able to fly for further distances without refuelling and their ability to hold more bombs than ever made aerial attacks more daunting. The government were well aware of these advances and were anticipating that the Germans would be relentless in their attacking. During World War Two gas bombs had also been developed meaning the civilian were also in danger from poisoning and suffocation. This would make the advancements in technology a reason to evacuate children from Britain's major cities because it simply meant that the chances of being bombed and facing air raid were very high. Planes that could go further and could hold more bombs were able to attack for longer or target more than one city. The countryside being of no industrial value was far less likely to be targeted meaning that the technology was useless in harming the children if it was not being used in the countryside.
The final and most significant reason that aided in the decision to evacuate children in the early years of the World War Two was to ensure the future generations were saved. Children were the future, when the children had grown up they would have been necessary to either continue the war effort to guarantee victory. If the war had already ended, the children would have been needed to reconstruct the cities that had been destroyed as a result of the war. The government had to prepare for the future once the adults were unable to work the children would have to take up the vital roles in society. In order to make sure children would still be able to provide their country with a future, teachers were evacuated in order for the children to keep up with there studies throughout their evacuation and to save future children from losing out on an education. To save future generations was a reason because it meant that the future was still certain no matter what. Had the children stayed in the major cities during the blitz, they would have been in so much danger and a large percentage of children would not have survived. The government had to make sure that the future of the country was not bleak and they had to guarantee that the country would be able to get back to normal as fast as possible after the war.
In conclusion, there were a variety of different reasons for the government's decision to evacuate children from Britain's major cities in thee early years of the war, many of which are linked. The closest link is between my point of expecting bombings to occur in Britain's major industrial cities and my point about the development in technology. Had there not been any development in technology there would not be an expectation of a higher degree and more frequent bombing and aerial attacks because the technology made it possible for the aerial attacks, air raids and bombings to take place in the major cities. Saving future generations can also be linked to the expectation of bombing, had there not been any expectations of Britain's major cities being under attack there would be no need to save Britain's future generations.
In conclusion, there were many different reasons why the government decided to evacuate children from the major cities in Britain during the early years of World War Two, many of which are linked to one another in a variety of ways. My first point, the expectation of bombing, is linked directly to my final point regarding the development of technology. The technology made it more possible for attacks to take place so the expectation was raised. If it had not been for the new technology, bombing raids would have been harder and therefore less common so the government may have expected only very light bombing and not opted to conduct a full scale evacuation. Ensuring the future of the country also links back to the expectation of heavy bombing. They took measures to protect the future because they believed they would be bombed. If they did not expect to be bombed, they would probably have thought that the children would be safe in the cities so they would not need to evacuate them to protect the future. Also, the expectation of heavy bombing is linked to shielding the children from the horrors of death and destruction. The government did not want children to see mutilated bodies lying in the streets so they evacuated them. However, if it had not been for them expecting attacks, they wouldn’t need to shield them from anything in the first place. The fact that the countryside was safer is linked to the fact that children needed to be saved. If the countryside was more dangerous, the government would not have decided to evacuate children because it worked have been pointless. Similarly, children would not be shielded from danger if the country was dangerous too. In addition, it is linked to helping women help the country. Women could be safe in the knowledge that their children were being looked after in large areas of land with plenty of food and lots of fresh air and their education being kept up too. This would allow them to focus fully on their job and volunteer work to win the war. Saving children for the future is linked to shielding them from the horrors of war. The children would be needed to rebuild the country after the war and in order to do so they would need to be at their fullest physical and mental capacity. This could be achieved by evacuating them away from danger and torment as the Blitz started. Finally, shielding children from danger is linked to the technological advances made to make planes more adequate at air raids. Children would have faced constant bombardment from both explosive bombs and dropped gas. They would happen more often, more dangerously and more severely due to the advances in technology. If this technology had not advanced, children would have nothing to fear other than one or two occasional Zeppelin raids. I believe the most important reason for the evacuation of children in the early years of the Second World War was that the children needed to be saved for the future to rebuild and repopulate. If lots of children had been left in the cities to die and all the men had been dying at war, there would be a severe shortage of possible fathers and therefore children too. This would lead to a dangerously low population in Britain which would be very open to attack if Germany had the ability to and decided to recommence the war several years later. If children had not been saved for the future, Britain could not rebuild or repopulate and would soon be in dire need of support from other countries, and therefore, evacuation was an absolute must for the government.