Skip to main content

Timeline :: Children, mothers and the infirm evacuated from towns during Second World War

Silhouette for no photo

Fear that German bombing would cause civilian deaths prompted the government to evacuate children, mothers with infants and the infirm from British towns and cities during the Second World War. Evacuation took place in several waves. The first came on 1 September 1939 - the day Germany invaded Poland and two days before the British declaration of war. Over the course of three days 1.5 million evacuees were sent to rural locations considered to be safe. Thousands of volunteer helpers supported the evacuation, as well as teachers, local authority officials, railway staff, and 17,000 members of the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS).

Evacuation took place in Scotland too. Areas affected were Edinburgh, Rosyth, Glasgow, Clydebank, Dundee, Inverkeithing and Queensferry, and from May 1941, after the Clydeside air-raids, Greenock, Port Glasgow and Dumbarton were added. Perthshire, the Borders and the Highlands were the destinations.

Mass evacuation had a number of consequences. Children – and their parents – were often deeply unhappy at the separation from all that was familiar. By January 1940, almost half had returned home –against government advice. But it also brought to public and government attention the poor conditions in which many were living in the cities of the UK.

For more information and some photographs, see:

  • (need link text)
  • (need link text)