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Background Information

Read about the background to the war and the evacuation process.

As the prospect of war loomed, there was a great fear that there would be huge air raids on British cities. The government began to plan the evacuation of people from the cities to the countryside. Britain was divided into zones:

  • Evacuation areas - where heavy bombing was expected
  • Reception areas - considered safe from bombing, mostly countryside areas where evacuees would be received by local families.
  • Neutral areas - no one would be evacuated.

Most evacuees were children between 5 and 15. But other people were also evacuated including mothers with children under five, pregnant women, hospital patients and blind people.

On the 1st September 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland, evacuation of people from large cities began. Posters, leaflets, letters and radio had been used to persuade parents how important it was. Trains and buses were taken over for the task of transporting nearly half a million people in September 1939.

Many children had to be evacuated on their own without their mothers. The children were taken to train and bus stations all over the country. Each child had a label pinned to his or her coat with their name and address written on it and a stamped addressed postcard, which the children could send home when they reached their destination. They had no idea where they would end up.

When they arrived, the children were billeted to local families. There were often many problems. Some families did not want evacuees to stay with them but were forced to because of a shortage of host families. There were many culture clashes as city children had to learn to live in the country, but there were also success stories and many families kept in touch with their evacuees even after the war when they had gone home.

Some children were evacuated overseas to the USA and Canada. However, many of the ships were attacked and sunk by enemy ships and submarines and the evacuation overseas was stopped in 1940 because it was too dangerous.

By January 1940 many children began to return home to their families. The bombs that had been expected as soon as war began had not come. Families did not see the reason to be apart and the stress of living in other people’s homes was too much for some.

When the bombing of British cities did occur during the Blitz of 1940 there was another wave of evacuation. This was followed four years later in 1944 by another as the German use of flying V2 rockets to attack Britain began.

Even though Lincolnshire had many airbases and industries, it was largely considered to be an area of relative safety. Lincoln and the surrounding area became a reception area and it received evacuees from Leeds, Hull and Sheffield.

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Last updated: 24 February 2011

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