Civil Defence Information Leaflet 3 on evacuation in World War Two
In July 1939 the British Government was preparing for war. War was not to come until September but the Lord Privy Seal's Office distributed leaflets to the public under the banner of the Civil Defence. Public Information Leaflet no.3 was entitled Evacuation: why and how. My thanks to Teresa and Bill Finch for allowing me to photograph their copy for this website.
The leaflet consisted of a single sheet of paper folded double, with a two-page spread of information on the inside continued on the back. It was clearly produced in haste as the distinction between headings and text emboldened for emphasis is not always clear. The sexist language of treating everyone as 'he' jars today's ears.
The text of the leaflet is in the following box, together with links to more information on this website. Alternatively the text can be read by clicking the thumbnail images.
There are still a number of people who ask "What is the need for all this business about evacuation? Surely if war comes it would be better for families to stick together and not go breaking up their homes?"
It is quite easy to understand this feeling, because it is difficult for us in this country to realise what war in these days might mean. If we were involved in war, our big cities might be subjected to determined attacks from the air at any rate in the early stages ' and although our defences are strong and are rapidly growing stronger, some bombers would undoubtedly get through.
We must see to it then that the enemy does not secure his chief objects ' the creation of anything like panic, or the crippling dislocation of our civil life.
One of the first measures we can take to prevent this is the removal of the children from the more dangerous areas.
THE GOVERNMENTS EVACUATION SCHEME
The Government have accordingly made plans for the removal from what are called 'evacuable' areas (see list at the back of this leaflet) to safer places called 'reception' areas, of school children, children below school age if accompanied by their mothers or other responsible persons, and expectant mothers and blind persons.
The scheme is entirely a voluntary one, but clearly the children will be much safer and happier away from the big cities where the dangers will be greatest.
There is room in the safer areas for these children; householders have volunteered to provide it. They have offered homes where the children will be made welcome. The children will have their schoolteachers and other helpers with them and their schooling will be continued.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO
Schoolchildren would assemble at their schools when told to do so and would travel together with their teachers by train. The transport of some 3,000,000 in all is an enormous undertaking. it would not be possible to let all parents know in advance the place to which each child is to be sent but they would be notified as soon as the movement is over.
If you have children of school age, you have probably already heard from the school or the local education authority the necessary details of what you would have to do to get your child or children taken away. Do not hesitate to register your children under this scheme, particularly if you are living in a crowded area. Of course it means heartache to be separated from your children, but you can be quite sure that they will be well looked after. That will relieve you of one anxiety at any rate. You cannot wish, if it is possible to evacuate them, to let your children experience the dangers and fears of air attack in crowded cities.
Children under five
Children below school age must be accompanied by their mothers or some other responsible person. Mothers who wish to go away with such children should register with the Local Authority. Do not delay in making enquiries about this.
A number of mothers in certain areas have shown reluctance to register. Naturally, they are anxious to stay by their menfolk. Possibly they are thinking that they might as well wait and see; that it may not be so bad after all. Think this over carefully and think of your child or children in good time. Once air attacks have begun it might be very difficult to arrange to get away.
Expectant mothers can register at any maternity or child welfare centre. For any further information inquire at your Town Hall.
In the case of the Blind, registration to come under the scheme can be secured through the home visitors, or enquiry may be made at the Town Hall.
If you have made private arrangements for getting away your children to relatives or friends in the country, or intend to make them, you should remember that while the Government evacuation scheme is in progress, ordinary railway and road services will necessarily be drastically reduced and subject to alteration at short notice. Do not, therefore, in an emergency leave your private plans to be carried out at the last moment. It may then be too late.
If you happen to be away on holiday in the country or at the seaside and an emergency arises, do not attempt to take your children back home if you live in an "evacuable" area.
WORK MUST GO ON
The purpose of evacuation is to remove from the crowded and vulnerable centres, if an emergency should arise, those, more particularly the children, whose presence cannot be of any assistance.
Everyone will realise that there can be no question of wholesale clearance. We are not going to win a war by running away.
Most of us will have work to do, and work that matters, because we must maintain the nation's life and the production of munitions and other material essential to our war effort. For most of us therefore, who do not go off into the Fighting Forces our duty will be to stand by our jobs or those new jobs which we may undertake in war.
Some people have asked what they ought to do if they have no such definite work or duty.
You should be very sure before deciding that there is really nothing you can do. There is opportunity for a vast variety of services in civil defence. YOU must judge whether in fact you can or cannot help by remaining. If you are sure you cannot, then there is every reason why you should go away if you can arrange to do so, but you should take care to avoid interfering with the official evacuation plans. If you are proposing to use the public transport services, make your move wither BEFORE the evacuation of the children begins or AFTER it has been completed. You will not be allowed to use transport required for the official evacuation scheme and other essential purposes, and you must not try to take accommodation which is required for the children and mothers under the Government scheme.
For the rest, we must remember that it would be essential that the work of the country should go on. Men and women alike will have to stand firm, to maintain our effort for victory. Such measures of protection as are possible are being pushed forward for the large numbers who have to remain at their posts. That they will be ready to do so, no one doubts.
The 'evacuable' areas under the Government scheme are: -
(a) London, as well as the County Boroughs of West Ham and East Ham; the Boroughs of Walthamstow, Leyton, Ilford and Barking in Essex; the Boroughs of Tottenham, Hornsey, Willesden, Acton and Edmonton in Middlesex; (b) the Medway towns of Chatham, Gillingham and Rochester; (c) Portsmouth, Gosport and Southampton; (d) Birmingham and Smethwick; (e) Liverpool, Bootle, Birkenhead and Wallasey; (f) Manchester and Salford (g) Sheffield, Leeds, Bradford and Hull; (h) Newcastle and Gateshead; (i) Edinburgh, Rosyth, Glasgow, Clydeband and Dundee.
In some of these places only certain areas will be evacuated. Evacuation may be effected from a few other places in addition to the above, of which notice will be given.