English Orphan Transports


Figure 1.--These English boys all seem to have been smarly outfitted for their transport to Australia. They were the Fairbridge Party meaning that they were assigned to the Fairbridge Farm School. They were transported on the SS Benallea. I'm not sure when, but it looks like the early 1930s.

British children between 1906 and 1970,were forcibly transported from Britain to Australia, New Zealand, Rhodesia and Canada. Estimates sugget that about 230,000 children were involved in these transports. Many of the children, but not all, were orphans. Many had relatives. In many cases the relatives were not told and did not know about the transports. The motivation for these transports varied. Humanitarian feeling for the childrn were a factor. The transports were supposedly to give them a better start in life, but the children had widely varying experienes. Another purpose of the transport was to populate British colonies with ethnically British people. The eugenics movement was another influence. There have been many accounts and films depicting the opposite.

Barnardo Transports

English philantropist Dr. John Barnardo was one of the primary workers in England attempting to provide for orphans and street children. Barnardo was appauled at the plight of street children. One solution was to send some of these children abroad. One of the destinations was Canada. An important assessment of the experiences of these children was written by Gail Corbett, Barnardo Children in Canada. Corbett has written several academic volumes documenting the history of the children in Canada. Among the Most interesting was a Photo Album published in 1996. ables, Lists and Research Results complete the volume. The author unmasks the greatest human interest story in Canadian History-- the pilgrimage of thousands of dependent children. The book sensitively and accurately records the largest and most successful child emigration into the emerging nation. The author records first hand accounts of child emigration, archival materials never before released, directions for genealogical research and more.

Fairbridge Foundation

Kingsley Fairbridge founded the Child Emigration Society in 1909 which evolved into the Fairbridge Foundation to sponsor projects to send indigent British children to farm schools in the Empire. We have few details on the Foundation at this time. We note projects in Australia, Canada, and Rhodesia. The transports to Australia were especially important. Kingley Fairbridge received support in Australia for his project of shipping indigent Britih childten to farm schools. The CES raised 2,000 and in 1913 the first Fairbridge "farm school" was opened in Western Australia. Another training farm (supported by grants from the British and Australian governments as well as private donations) was later opened in New South Wales. We have few details about the Fairbridge Farm school in Australia. The photogrph here shows boys arriving in the 1930s (figure 1). Fairbridge's first Canadian project failed, even though the government of Newfoundland agreed to provide the needed land. Fairbridge's asociates in 1924 began working on a farm school in British Columbia at Duncan on Vancouver Island. The farm was a 1,000 acre tract about 40 miles north of Victoria, the provincial capital. The Prince of Wales Fairbridge Farm School was opened in 1935 and in September the first children began arriving. The children were from Tyneside, Birmingham and London sections of England. The plan was to send children 6-16 years of age. The farm school was designed for about 150 children. The children lived in cottages, each housing about 12 children. The children received a basic education and were trained in modern farming practices. The farm school operated until 1948. The first party of 18 Fairbridge boys sailed from Southampton on November 18, 1946 on the Carnarvon Castle and arrived in Cape Town, South Africa on December 4. Where they traveled on to Fairbridge Memorial College in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. I am not sure when Fairbridge College was founded.

The Children

British children from the mid-19th century until 1970, were forcibly transported from Britain to Australia, Canaba, New Zealand, and Rhodesia. The largest number were sent to Australia. We do not have a complete chronology. We believe that most of the transports took place after the turn of the 20th century. There were substantial transports after World War II because of the difficult economic conditions. Estimates as to the number of children vary. There is no definitive accounting. We have seen estimates ranging from 160,000-230,000 children involved in these transports. Most of the children were English, but I have no detailed information on their origins. I believe that the chilren were drawn from all the various parts of the United Kingdom. Many of the children, but not all, were orphans. Many had relatives. In many cases the relatives were not told and did not know about the transports.

Purpose

The motivation for these transports varied. Humanitarian feeling for the childrn were a factor. The transports were supposedly to give them a better start in life, but the children had widely varying experienes. Another purpose of the transport was to populate British colonies with ethnically British people. The eugenics movement was another influence, the idea being to populate the Empire and later the Dominions with people of English Anglo-Saxon stock. I'm not sure precisely who made a decession like this, but given the period of time covered and the number of children involved, you would have assumed that it had high-level approval.

Accounts

There have been many accounts and films depicting the transport of these children and especially their experiences. Most of the accounts we have noted come from Australia.

Clothing

The available images suggest that the children were sent out from England with ane set of clothes, often school uniform outfits with ovrcoats or gaberdine raincoats. They seem more dressed for England than their new homes. The climate in the former colonies to which they were sent were all much warmer than Britain.

Reader Comments

A reader writes, "Do you know if the children were pre-chosen by the receiving families, churches or orphanages or are these posed photographs something more gruesome like a cross between a beauty parade and the ancient Roman slave auctions? Did the children have to look their best to appeal to the future care givers?" HBC has not yet had a chnce to research this topic. We believe that the comparable programs in America and Canada (orphan trains) did place the children with families. On arriving at a stantion, the children would be lined up nd picked out by assembled adults. I'm not sure that this occurred to the same exent with the nglish transports. Some of the children were raised in orphanages and farm schools, but here we need more informtion. I think it unlikely that the hildren were selected in advance by families.







HBC





Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing orphanage pages:
[Return to the Main English orphan page]
[Return to the Main orphanage page]
[Return to the Main eugenics page]
[Australia] [Canada] [French] [Poland] [Russia] [United States]



Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to Main World War II page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]




Created: September 15, 2003
Last update: 8:44 PM 10/31/2004