Overseas British Evacuation of Children (1940)

Figure 1.--Here two British refugee children arrive in New york City. The photograph is dated September 29, 1940. At the time the NAZI Blitz was pulverzing London. The boy is 6 years old. Note the kazoo held by the boy on the right. The child on the left is identified as the son of a chimney sweep. After the fall of France (June 1940), the British Government, fearing invasion, expanded the evacuation of children overseas, mostly to America and Canada.

The destinsations British children were evacuated to varied. The major destinations were the United States and the Dominions (Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and the Caribbean). At the time America was neutral, but the Dominios had joined Britain in the War. I believe that the largest numbers of chidren were sent to America and Canada, but do not yet have data on the various countris involved. The two most importabt were America and Canada, because of the relatively short distances of a trans-Atlantic pasage. America had strict immigration laws. I'm not sure how that was dealt with. Canada as a Domminion which joined Britain in the War was more open.


At the beginning of the War America was neutral. Most Americans wanted no part of the War, but from the beginning there was enorous sympathy for Britain. America was a large country which easily absorb the evacuees ahd klike Canada was relarivrely close to Britain. America had , however, strict immigration laws. I'm not sure how that was delt with. The evacuations to America seem to be more private undertakings than the Goverment sponsored CORB evacuations. I hven't been able to find much inormation about English refugees in America, but I know quite a number were evacuated here. This is a subject on wgich I hope to find more information.


Australia provided a safe haven in 1940. The the distances involved meant that very few children were evacuated there. There were some evacuatins to Australia which in 1940 looked very safe compared to Britain. TSS Nestor (Blue Funnel Line), left Liverpool in August 1940 bound for Brisbane, Australia. MS Batory (Gdynia-America Lines), left Liverpool on August 4, 1940 bound for Sydney, part of a large convoy with 480 CORB children (6 to 14 years) and 38 escorts. Chief escort was Charles Kilby, the headmaster of Hillcross School, Morden. SS Diomed (Blue Funnel Line), left Liverpool with 18 CORB boys in convoy OB-203 (the same convoy as City of Benares) bound for New South Wales, Australia. With America in the War, he liklihood of a Germany invading Britain was substantially reduced, but parents began to worry, however, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 1941) and the fall of Singapore (February 1942).


Canada as a Domminion which joined Britain in the War was open to evacuees. And it had the advantage of a relaively short Atlantic run. Thus most of the CORB children were evavcuated to Canada. This reflected the heavy involvement of the British Merchant Marine to the trans-Atlantic routes trade--Britain's lifeline. Nearly two-thirds of the CORB griups sailed for Canadia morts. The Canadian Govenment played an importnt role. Evacuees were met at the Canadian ports by Department of Immigration officials. They arranged and supervised the transport of the children to the various provincial clearing centers. Here officials of Children's Aid or other organizations placed the children with families who had previously volunteered to take in the refugee children. And there were follow up contacts if the chidren experienced problems adjusted. [Wallace] Many of the children landed in Cnada were then transported overland to groups in America which had volunteered to care for the children.


Some British children were sent to the Caribbean where there were several British colonies. We believe that the numbers were relatively small, but there were some. Only one of the CORB groups brought children to the Caribbeab. SS Orduna (Pacific Steam Navigation Company), left Liverpool on August 12, 1940, arriving Nassau in the Bahamas on August 30. It carried 16 children from Belmont Preparatory school, Hassocks Sussex. This is the only CORB group we know of that brought childrren to the Caribbean. There were also private movements with parents sending their children to familiy and friends in the Caribbean. We note some chilfren in Jamaica.

New Zealand

New Zealand oresented the same problem as Australia--the distance involved. But we note some CORB children dispatched to New Zealand. Like Australia, it seemed very safe at the time. We only know of one CORB group. RMS Rangitata (New Zealand Shipping Line), left Liverpool with 113 CORB children on August 28, 1940, bound for New Zealand in convoy OB-205.

South Africa

South Africa was another limited destination. There was one CORB group. RMS Llanstephan Castle (Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company), left Liverpool on August 24, 1940 bound for Cape Town, South Africa in convoy OB-203, with 308 CORB children.

United States

While most ot the CORB groups went to Canada. Many of the children involved came to the United States after landing in Canada. At the time of the CORB transports, America was neutral. Thus much of the trabs-Atlantic traffic went to Canada. President Roosevelt was in the process of getting the Neutrality Acts rescindd, but there were still complications. There were two CORB groups that landed in American ports. RMS Samaria (Cunard Line), left Liverpool on September 24, 1940, bound for New York, arriving on October 3. RMS Scythia (Cunard Line), left Liverpool on September 24, 1940 with 48 children bound for Boston, sponsored by readers of the Boston Evening Transcript newspaper.


Wallace, Dr. R.C. Chairman of the National Committee for Children from Overseas, radio address, November 3, 1940.


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Created: 11:15 PM 9/23/2007
Last updated: 1:31 AM 12/22/2017