Battle of Britain: Second Evacuation (June 1940-May 1941)


Figure 1.--The British Government began planning a second series of evacuatiins after the German Western offensive (May 10). This time it was not done all at one time. This London mother is considering evacuating her children (July 1940). The Luftwaffe had launched the air asault on Britain in preparation for an invasion, but had not yet begun bombing London.

When London had not been targeted, many Londoners responding to appeals from their children brought them home. There was, as a result, large numbers of children in London and the other big cities. With the German Western Offensive (May 10), it soon became clear that London and other British cities would soon be within range of Luftwaffe bombers. As a result, plans were made for another major evacuation effort. Unlike the first one, it was not done all at one time, but more spread out as conditions unfolded in France. Again it was voluntary based on parental judgement. This time, however, there was an added complication. The children in 1939 had dutifully marched off as told not really knowing whst was in store. For many it was a lark, a great adventure. They had no idea they would be separated from their parents for an extended period. Now they were really in danger, but most of them knew just what to expect and many did not want to go through that again. Many children put up quite a howl and convinced their prents to let them stay. Any parents know just how difficult is is to deal with a teary child. The Goverrment organized evacuations after Dunkirk (June 13-18). This was well before the Blitz, the bombing of London. About 0.1 million children were evacuated. Others followed. And parents could seek to evacuate their children even after the major evacuations. In most cases they were revacuated. The number was smaller than in 1939 because many children had not returned from the first evscuation and other children had convinced their parents to let them stay. Other vulnerable people were evacuated like the elderly. There were also efforts to remove people from ther coastal Channel ports that fronted Germzn occupied France. Another 0.1 million children were evacuated later in June. Most of the adults had little choice but to stick it out unless they had relatives willing to take them in for a time. Further evacuations occurred when the Germans actually launched the air assault on Britain. (July). Many worked for the Government or were involved in war industries and expected to stay. This time it was not just air attack, but the Germans were preparing an actual invasion. Some coastal towns in Kent and East Anglia deemed to be particularly vulnerable evacuated over 40 percent of the population. The British military assumed the expected invasion would come in Kent as it was the country closest to the German controlled Channel ports. The number of official evacues peaked at 1.4 million (February 1941). The Blitz ended as the Luftwaffe shifted east to prepare for Barbarossa (May 1941). Even before this, children had begun to trickle back to their parents,.

Children in London

When after the beginning of World War II, London and other British cities were no targetted by the Luftwaffe, many Londoners responding to appeals from their children brought them home. The Germans did bomb Polish cities. Warsaw was subjected to a terrifying bombrdment. Even so many British parents decuded that London and other British cities were safe. There was, as a result, large numbers of children in London and the other big cities. With the German Western Offensive came (May 10), it soon became clear that London and other British cities would soon be within range of Luftwaffe bombers. As a result, plans were made for another major evacuation efforttion effort.

Alien Internment

Millions of Europeans were displaced by World War II. This began well before the War when Jews and political disidents were forced to fleethe country. Thus at the outbreak of the War (September 1939), there were substantial numbers of German citizens in Brtain, many of them were Jews and anti-NAZIs. The British detained 28,000 Germans (including Austrians). The pro- and anti-NAZIs were at first interned together in the same facilities. And as some of the Kinder Transport children began to turn 18, they were also interned. The British proceeded to intern all German nationals, regardless of their political orinentation or religion. Authorities did the same when Italy declated war (June 1940). The internment camps were on the Isle of Man. This was a location isolated from the British mainland and had holiday accommodation that becuse of the War could not be used. (The English Channel was no longer alace to take vacations.) The British classified these individuals as "Alien Civilians", the same term as used in World War I. The Government at first moved to move these alien civilians. The Government when a German invasion seemed eminent decided to move them to Canada nd Australia where they would not pose a danger. The Arandora Star carrying German and Italian aliens was torpedoed and sunk (July 1940). The result was 743 deaths, including prisoners, crew, and guards aboard the vessels. There were 813 enemy aliens who survived. They were subsequently included in the 2,500 aliens men transported aboard HMT Dunera for internment in Australia. There were a small number of German spies and saboteurs that the Germans had inserted or recruited. A few more were inserted during the War. The British MI-5 very quickly rounded up the German agents. We do not have details on how the British questioned the German agents. We do know there were a number of executions which was acceptable under internsaional law. The Brtish used he Tower of London during both World Wars for executions. Captured German spies were shot there. German Corporal Josef Jakobs was shot for espionage (August 15, 1941). Threatened with execution, MI-5 managed to turn several of the agents who were useful in transmitting disinformation to the Abwehr.

Timing (June-September)

Unlike the first evacuation in 1939one, the second evacuation was not done all at one time, but more spread out as conditions unfolded in France. Again it was voluntary based on parental judgement. The Goverrment began organizing evacuations after Dunkirk. The first evacuation occurred even before the French had formally surrendered (June 13-18, 1940). This was well before the Blitz, the bombing of London, began. The British evacuated about 0.1 million children at this time, many for the second time. Others followed. And parents could seek to evacuate their children even after the major evacuations. In most cases they were revacuated. The number was smaller than in 1939 because many children had not returned from the first evscuation and other children had convinced their parents to let them stay. Unlike the first time, the children now knew what evacuation meant. Quite a number did not like it and resisted this time.Most of the adults had little choice but to stick it out unless they had relatives willing to take them in for a time. Further evacuations occurred when the Germans actually launched the air assault on Britain. (July). The total reaached 0.2 million people. The Germans at first focused on the RAF facilities and not the cities, except for the Channel ports. When the Luftwaffe finlly began the Blitz in earnest, many of the children were safe in the countryside. bBut there were also mny chilre nstill in London and other cities.

Complication

The second time, however, there was an added complication. The children in 1939 had dutifully marched off as told not really knowing what was in store. For many it was a lark, a great adventure. They had no idea they would be separated from their parents for an extended period. Now they were really in danger, but most of them knew just what to expect and many did not want to go through that again. Many children put up quite a howl and convinced their prents to let them stay. Any parents know just how difficult is is to deal with a teary child.

Overseas Evacuations

he British Government developed plans for evacuating 1 million children to the United states and Canada and other overseas domminions. Aftr the fall of France, some this as one way of ensuring that Britain could survive even if invaded. After the German victory in France (June 1940) and the air assault on Britain began (July 1940), the Government began to see America, Canada and other Commonwealth nations as safer havens, nor only from the aerial bombardment, but also from a possible German invasion. The Germans evetually began the Blitz or bombing of British cities (September 1940). Some children were evacuated by ship to British Dominions, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. The first child evacuees, or "guest children" were of the wealthy classes, sometimes entire schools were sent through private arrangements to family or friends in Canada. The British public eventually demanded the government pay so that less privileged children were also eligible. The War situation changed by early 1941. A German invasion was no longer though eminent and the Luftwaffe was forced to wind down its bombing campaign. Two ships carrying child evacuees were torpedoed. One of these was the City of Benares an ocean line with 200 British and foreign civilian passangers and 93 British children with an escort of nurses, teachers, and a clergyman. The ship was torpedoed September 13, 1940. Only two life boatswere ever found, one 8 days after the sinking. Only 15 children survived. Churchill when he learned of the disaster moved to end the overseas evaucation scheme. [Gilbert, pp. 321-342.] One of the most moving account of these evacuationscomes from Martin Gilbert, an historian that HBC has drawn on extensively.

Refugees

An estimated 30,000 people arrived from continental Europe. This included both British subjects and Europeand fleeing the Germans. Dutch and Belgians civilans arrived (May) and French civilans (June). There were also foreign nastionals in those countries thatv tried to reach Britain.

Channel Islands (June 1940)

The Channel Islands are British territory lovated just off the coast of Britainty. With the fall of France there were militarily indefensable. The Royal Navy evacuated people voluntarily (June 20-24). About 25,000 islanders were evacuated. As I understand it, children, women, and the elderly were evacuated on a voluntary basis. Only men of military age who agreed to join the services were evacuated. The Germans occupied the islands soon after. Those who did not evacuate endured over 4 years of German occupation.

Other Evacuees

Children are the most widely discussed, but there were other evacuees. Other vulnerable people were evacuated like the elderly. There were also efforts to remove people from ther coastal Channel ports that fronted German occupied France. Several coastal towns in Kent and East Anglia evacuated over 40 percent of the population.

Adults

Many worked for the Government or were involved in war industries and expected to stay. This time it was not just air attack, but the Germans were preparing an actual invasion. Some coastal towns in Kent and East Anglia deemed to be particularly vulnerable evacuated over 40 percent of the population. The British military assumed the exprcted invasion would come in Kent as it was the country closest to the German controlled Channel ports. The number of official evacues peaked at 1.4 million (February 1941).

End of the Blitz (May 1941)

Gradually as Winter 1940-41 set in, the German attacks declined in intensity and frequency. The fourth phase of the Battle of Britain had lasted for several months. It had been conducted at night. The RAF's growing strength meant that it was too costly for the Luftwaffe to attempt day-light raids. The last major Luftwaffe raid was staged May 10, 1941. It was a final show of strength. Preparations for Operation Barbarossa, the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union, were by May highly advanced. Much of the Wehrmacht had already been transferred east. The Luftwafe was also being shifted east for Barbarossa. The Luftwaffe was never again able to mount major raids against Britain with conventgional aircraft. Raids were very klimited in 1942-43. The Luftwaffe was unable to focus on Britain as it had in 1940-41. The staggering extent of operations on the Easter Front created staggering demands that the Luftwaffe could not meet. And there were demands from North Africa as well as increasing demands to protect German cities from Allied air raids. Allied air power made it increasingly costly for the Luftwaffe to attempt raids and possible to as target Luftwaffe bases in France. The British air campaign against Germany was given new life with the arrival of the Avro Lancanster--one of the great bombers of the War. In addition, the Americans began building their air forces in Britain in 1942. Because of the way the Blitz ended, neither the Axis or the Allies preceived the full impact of the NAZI defeat. And the newspaper headlines were soon full of reports on the titanic battles being waged in the East. Not all the children were evacuated from London and the other cities. Even the hard hit East End had children all throughout the Blitz. And as the raids subsided, parents began bringing the children home. The desire to reunite families became especially strong as Christmas 1941 approached.

Return Home

The Luftwaffe was forced to shit to night-time raids (September 1940). This mean that signicabt targets could not be hit, only whole cities. The lufwaffe continued hitting British cities during the Fll. Coventry ws leveled (November 1940). As winter set in, raids declined because of the difficulty oprating in bad weather. The last major raid was a massive blow at the heart of London (May 10, 1941). It ws a parting shot as much of the Luftwaffe was being shifted east. Hitler was preparung for Barbarossa--the massive invasion of the Soviet Union. The Luftwaffe was an overwealming force at the start of the war. But by this time both Aerican and Britain were outproducing the Germans. And unlike the relatively small battlefields in the West, the Soviet Union presented a huge battlefield that it could not fully support at it had done in the smaller battlefields in the West. As Hitler gave a priority to Barbarossa, significant bombing oprations against Britain were no longer possible. The Luftwaffe just did not have the planes and men for both. Hitler's plan was to concentrate forces in the East, smash the the Red Army and Air Force in a quick summer campaign and then return to settle ccounts with the British. There were nusisance raids, but no more massive raids as in the Blitz. This meant by the summer, British cities were relatively safe. The Baedeker raids involved only a small number of planes and becayse of the griwing strength of the RAF did more damage to the Luftwaffe than the British (1942). The mere fact that thre were raids, howevr, no matter the size was probably enough to convince sime parents not to bring the children home. we are not sure when the children began coming home. Again tearful letters began arriving from the children asking to come home. This time many parents having experienced the Blitz were more inclined to leave the children in the countryside knowing that they were safe there. we know that the children began coming home after the raids ceased, but we have not found any statistics on just how many and when. There may have been an age factor here. We suspect that it may have been more difficult keeping the older children in the countrside. You would think that again Christmas was a critical time. Perhaps some data exists, but we have not been able to find it. We know that some children did not come home until the end of the War. And there were even some children in the cuntrside (1946). Of course this may have been in part due to the V-1 and V-2 ecacuarions during 1944.

Sources

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. 2 1933-54 (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.






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Created: 8:59 PM 8/6/2011
Last updated: 4:43 PM 3/12/2015