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Facing Evacuation of Children in WWII

Many mothers in English cities had to send their children away to the countryside for the duration for the war – from  September 1939 – estimates range from 800,000 to more than two million children. Around 2,500 children were sent overseas to Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. It is estimated that, by the end of 1941, around 14,000 British children had been evacuated overseas by private arrangement, over 6,000 to Canada, 5,000 to the United States and around 600 to Australia.  Unfortunately two ships carrying children overseas were torpedoed by German U-boats in 1940.


British children board a ship on their way to Canada WWII.

By the end of 1941 Australian mother’s were also encouraged to send their children out of the cities – to protect them from possible bomb attacks – not only because of the possible physical injuries, but also the horror of seeing and hearing bombing happening around them.  Evacuation was not compulsory in Australia, except for Darwin, which did actually face Japanese air raids and bombing – women, children and aborigines were evacuated.  In other cities you could register your children for evacuation – just in case.




Most children returned to their families after the war – some having been away from home for six years. What must it have been like to be sent away from home at five, 10 or even 14, as some of the older ones were, and then come home years later? Could  you pick up where you left off?  Would you remember, or like, your mother?  Would mother’s cope with their children? And what about the children whose lives actually improved when they were sent away, perhaps living better quality lives than they had at home?

Hopefully we will never again be a position like that of WWII (although evacuation of children to other countries had happened in subsequent wars, like the Vietnam War), but as a mother the idea is an interesting one. If you are interested, here is some further reading –

Evacuee stories online

More stories online

The memories of Mavis Robinson

The memories of playwright Terence Frisby

Evacuees in World War Two – the True Story By David Prest

When The Children Came Home: Stories Of Wartime Evacuees by Julie Summers (book to buy)


About thewartimewoman

I love history, fashion, art and design, especially of the 1930s to the 1960s. I am also a mother, wife, interior decorator & a treasure hunter who wishes she could drive a 1933 Delage. I studied Architecture at Melbourne university, briefly, and completed a Diploma of Art in Interior Design at the Melbourne College of Decoration in 1991. I have worked on an off as a decorator ever since, in between stints as a florist, balloon artist, having my five children and helping my husband in his law firm. in my spare time I love researching history, blogging and gardening.

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