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The Children’s War

By Ruth Inglis

This is the story of the children across Britain forced to leave home to escape the devastating bombings of the Second World War…

On 1 September 1939, two days before Britain declared war on Germany, approximately one-and-a-half million people, primarily parties of schoolchildren and mothers with infants, were evacuated into the British countryside to be safe from much-feared bomb attacks on the cities.

The railway timetabling worked like clockwork: children packed into stations and onto trains, some anticipating the longest, others the most desolate, journey of their young lives. At the rural reception centres they were ‘chosen’, cattle-market style, by their foster-parents for billeting, and in the ensuing mêlée, the worst and the best of hopes were realised.

E-Day proved premature. The Phoney War intervened, and when the panic subsided the children were returned to the cities in December 1939 to be met a few months later with the savage blitzing of 1940. This produced the Second Evacuation, and the ebb and flow of Britain’s children between the cities and the country would continue throughout the war, with the most terrified scramble for safety taking place in 1944-5 when the ‘Flying Bombs’ filled Britain’s skies. Other children – the ‘Seavacs’ – were sent overseas, and braved the U-boats to avoid the bombs, but sometimes met tragedy on their way to new homes abroad.

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