The evacuation of children and other vulnerable individuals in the eventuality of war was devised by the Anderson Committee in 1938, designed to keep people safe in case urban areas came under threat of aerial bombing.
The Evacuation Scheme and the Phoney War
When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, the Government Evacuation Scheme was put into effect, with over 1.5m at risk individuals leaving cities for the safety of the countryside within the first three days of evacuation. This was a voluntary scheme, and many people chose to take the risk of keeping their children at home with them.
As millions of people travelled away from built up areas, the Western powers who had become embroiled in war were relatively inactive. The period from September 1939 until the Battle of France in May 1940 became known as the Phoney War (Churchill referred to it as the ‘Twilight War’), as nations organised their war materiel and personnel into various states of readiness.
The Evacuees Return
Parents began to miss their children, and many were unconvinced by the personal threat the war put them under. Gradually, children and other evacuees began to stream back to the cities as bombing raids and poison gas failed to materialise, and rationing and conscription created feelings of disquiet.
Seeing the very real and imminent threat of bombing raids on urban areas, the Ministry of Health devised this poster. In it, a mother is undecided as to whether to leave her children in the countryside or to bring them home. Behind her, a spectral Adolf Hitler attempts to sway her toward the latter, putting her entire family at risk rather than just the adults.
A huge number of evacuees were brought back to urban areas in 1939 and early 1940. Many of the children who were brought back to the cities during the Phoney War were re-evacuated, firstly after France fell, and then during the Blitz.