There are many factors, which contribute to whether or not evacuation was a success. One major factor is the number of lives that were saved due to evacuation. We now know that if evacuation had not taken place, a lot more people would have been killed in the Blitz (only were actually killed). However, we also know that there were cases of abuse (‘I had bruises from my neck right down to my ankles on both sides and on my left hip all my clothes were stuck to my hip where it was bleeding’ John Abbot) and children being used for slave labour etc because the host families were not checked, and this is obviously a major failure.
Evacuation was intended to save lives, nothing else. Nevertheless, there was a lot more to evacuation than intended. For example, the government did not take into account the social impact evacuation would have, or the possibility of long-term trauma for some children. The sources show different experiences and interpretations of evacuation. Taken at face value, source B implies that evacuation was a success because it shows the evacuees in high spirits, as do sources D and H. We know that the government were responsible for producing sources D and H, but source B could have been produced by anyone.
However, it is possible that it was taken by the government to use as propaganda to persuade parents to evacuate their children, as it was not compulsory for children to be evacuated. Parents were not convinced about evacuation at the time because they were not given any information about where their child would be staying, or even whom they would be staying with. Therefore, from this source, we can learn how the government went about trying to evacuate as many people as possible in the first wave of evacuation in September 1939.
Sources D and H deal with the stereotyping of evacuees. A traditional picture of evacuees emerged which suggested that all were infested with lice and disease, had atrocious manners, constantly wet the bed and were likely to commit any number of crimes. ‘(The Evacuation – The True Story, Martin Parsons and Penny Starns). The government had to try to change this image of evacuees to continue people volunteering to take in evacuees and to stop parents worrying about their children. There was already a shortage of host families (source H), so they needed to convince people that evacuees were not as bad as people said they were.
There were also parents who were reluctant to allow their children to be evacuated (source I). Therefore, the government had to produce propaganda that would please both parties. Both sources D and H would probably be convincing to both parties because they both show the evacuees smiling and they both try to correct the rumours about evacuees (i. e. that they were dirty and impolite). Sources B, D and H are useful for showing what the government was showing people to persuade them to evacuate their children, and allow evacuees into their homes, in the early stages of the war.
The government wanted to save the lives of British civilians, and they achieved this. From this point of view, evacuation was a success. However, seeing that the government was using propaganda to convince people makes us think that there was something wrong; if evacuation was as great as they made it out to be, they would not need to use any sort of propaganda. From this point of view, these sources imply that evacuation was a failure. Sources C, E and F show three different perspectives of evacuation, but all three suggest failure. There could be a number of reasons for this.
For example, the interviewer could have been asking what these people thought were the failures of evacuation. However, it is not impossible that all three did have bad experiences. ‘There was no typical evacuation experience’ (The Evacuation – The True Story, Martin Parsons and Penny Sterns), so we cannot say that one particular type of experience could not have happened to a number of people. However, there are reasons both for and against their reliability. Source C recalls some experiences that can be backed up by other sources and therefore is reliable for some.
For example, she says that they were ‘too afraid to talk’. Elizabeth Pask also says ‘We weren’t allowed to ask questions and there was no discussion’. However, the source does not mention anything about the journey onwards, so it does not give us a very clear view of whether evacuation was a success or not, but it is useful for giving us a teachers perspective of what the beginning stages of evacuation were like. Source E is reinforced by source A. Both sources discuss the stereotypical view of evacuees, which made them quite unpopular in reception areas and made people reluctant to take them into their homes.
However, this source is contradicted by source F. This shows that although some evacuees probably did live up to their stereotype, there would also have been a lot that did not. This source is useful for showing us a host’s experience, as their point of view is often forgotten, and is also useful for proving that the stereotypical image of an evacuee was not always a myth. Nevertheless, it shows the problems that occurred which were probably due to the lack of planning which took place before evacuation. Source F also shows stereotyping, but tries to turn it around.
There is a valid point made in the source that can be backed up by many other sources (‘… most evacuees were already clean and disease free. ‘ Martin Parsons and Penny Sterns), not all host families were welcoming and caring. There were cases of abuse and slave labour by the host parents when children were evacuated, so it was not always the evacuees who were the problem. These three sources seem to have the same sort of theme, and because they are all from the same time, it brings into question the motives of the interviewer; we do not know what the interviews were based on, they could have been asking for only negative experiences.
However, theses sources imply that evacuation was a failure. The reliability of sources G and J could be questioned because their purpose is to entertain, but they could still be just as reliable as any of the other sources. Source G again shows the stereotyping of evacuees. We know that it was not always the evacuees who were unhygienic, however this is often not considered because the stereotypes of evacuees and host families are so widespread. With this type of source, the author’s motive has to be taken into account; the truth could be stretched because novels are made to entertain, not to inform.
The author could also be writing for the money and so did not bother to make the story too factual, in case it was too boring. However, it is also possible that the author could have been an evacuee, as we are not told why she wrote the novel, so it could be giving us a very accurate account of her own experiences. Whatever the case, the author would probably have done some sort of research before writing the story to make it seem more realistic.
Source J shows how some evacuees did have an improved lifestyle in the countryside because they were able to get away from abusive homes, but it also highlights why some children would have felt unwanted (‘I remember her saying ‘you’ve got to’ to the host’ Terri McNeil) and the problems that were going unnoticed in the cities. Again, the motives of the author have to be taken into account when this sources reliability is questioned. Both sources show a kind host family who are quite well of, which is quite stereotypical.
However, source G recognises that not all evacuees were dirty and infested with lice (‘That most evacuees were already clean and disease free was a fact which was systematically ignored’ Martin Parsons and Penny Starns), so the author has obviously done some research. Source J makes the point some children were abused by their parents, and this was going unnoticed until they were sent to live in someone else’s home. I think that both sources show that evacuation was a success for some children. Finally, source I shows why some parents objected to their children being evacuated.
This source makes almost the same point as source F; that it was sometimes the host families who were dirty. It outlines some of the worries that many parents had at the time. It also shows that the government did not check the host families to see if they were able to take care of children or even if it would be safe for them. We know that there were cases of abuse and trauma because of evacuation (‘I came home one day and the old man was on his own and he tried molesting me’ Jean Vesey) but there were also children who had a wonderful time when they were evacuated (‘It was just like a fairytale’ Joan Reeve).
The experience of evacuation cannot be summed up by one person’s point of view because thee were so many different experiences. This source would be useful for showing why parents objected to evacuating their children and could also help to explain why so many moved back to the danger areas. However, the source is limited because it is only one person’s point of view. From this point of view, evacuation was a failure. Britain could have been in a much worse state during and after the war if evacuation had not taken place; the soldier’s morale would have been low and many children would have been killed.
Many people had good experiences, as shown in source J, which helped them to understand how different people lived and probably made them a bit more mature. On the other hand, people who were abused could have been traumatised for the rest of their lives. Children felt rejected, as shown in source F, and there was so much stereotyping of evacuees that the government were issuing propaganda (sources B, D and H) and host families seemed to be forever complaining about ‘dirty evacuees’ (sources A, E and G).
I do not believe that evacuation was neither a success nor a failure, simply because there were so many different situations that children found themselves. Many of the problems were caused by a lack of host families, which is something the government should have looked into before they started to move children. For example, Wokingham RD was expecting just over 3000 evacuees, but they received almost 6500, which would obviously create a shortage of host families. However, evacuation did save lives, and this was its main intention.