Here to help
Newsletter Signup

Activities for Pupils

The Evacuation of School Children During World War Two

Aeroplanes were first used to drop bombs on British towns and cities during the First World War and some people were killed. The destructive power of these early raids was very small compared to the damage and loss of life which could be caused by the new generation of aeroplanes and explosive devices, developed after the end of the First World War. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, he began to build up the German armed forces to make his country powerful again. British leaders worried that if a new war began, British cities and industrial areas would be targets for bombing raids. They started to make plans to move infants, children and some adults away from areas in danger if war was to break out.

The whole country was divided into three areas:
EVACUATION AREAS: thought to be at most risk from heavy bombing
RECEPTION AREAS: believed to be safe from bombardment
NEUTRAL AREAS: not very likely to be bombed but not considered suitable as Reception areas.

On September 1 1939, German forces invaded Poland. The same day, ‘Operation Pied Piper’ began: the mass evacuation of schoolchildren with their teachers, mothers with children under five, and some adults with disabilities. About 1.5 million people were moved over three days from places at risk into small towns and villages in the countryside.

Large parts of rural Northumberland were categorised as Reception areas, and plans were made to receive evacuees from industrial Tyneside. This is the story of what really happened during evacuation into Northumberland.

Click on the links below for documents and questions addressing four key themes:

before_the_war_221 Before the War: What plans were made and when?
(NRO 4351/6/31/3)

opp_pied_piper_221Operation Pied Piper:  What actually happened on the day of evacuation? Did the plans go smoothly?
(BRO 794/92/3 C)

drift_home_221 The Drift Home: Why did so many adult and child evacuees go home quite soon after evacuation? Why were many re-evacuated later?
(NRO 5630/01 [1940/05])

ed_and_rec_221Education and Recreation:  What problems did wartime conditions cause for schools and the education of evacuated children?
(NRO 1449/290)