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Rock Street, San Francisco

The government had the right attitude towards evacuation. Their slogan was ‘Keep them happy, Keep them safe.’ This implies that they were concerned for the safety of the children. However the government used propaganda to cover the negative aspects of evacuation. For example the lack of foster parents. They published photographs of happy children meeting pleasant hosts. They did this because the government didn’t think that the public believed in evacuation, so they tried to promote it through propaganda. Propaganda was proven to be needed when, at the start of 1940 people began to return home to their families. They started to do this because no bombs had fallen, and the families did not see any reason for them to be split up for so long. Also they were getting agitated in living in other peoples homes.

Children, who lived in the poor parts of inner cities, could have a fresh start and enjoy life in the countryside. With more food and less chance of bombing heir health improved, and they had a better lifestyle. However many children became stressed when some middle class hosts were unwilling to take evacuees that weren’t in the same age group. As a result brothers and sisters were split up. Evacuees were worried because many of them were away from their mothers for the first time. They also had to adapt to different behavioral styles because of the different social classes. The selection process, where host parents chose which children they would like to have, became unpleasant for the evacuees. Those not picked felt rejected on top of all the other problems that they faced. Even though the physical condition of the evacuees improved, many of them were still unhappy.

The host parents had better living conditions many of the inner city parents did. They had beds to accommodate the children. The children were able to use basic things like beds, knives and forks for the first time. Also the host parents found that having children there with them helped them cope with the war. They were shocked by the poor health, and how dirty the children’s clothes were, and what state they were in. Some evacuees were covered in lice or were very thin. Children repaid their hosts by helping on the farms in the country. On the same token, some of the host parents were unwilling to take children. They didn’t treat them fairly because they didn’t give them the right food, and they kept the benefit money for themselves (40p/ eight shillings).

Becoming a host parent came along with many problems. When the evacuees reached their designated area, they found that they weren’t meant to be there. Villages expecting young children received hundreds of pregnant women. Some hosts found it difficult to deal with children who did not behave like their own. Many host families were short of money because when the price of food rose, their benefit pay didn’t.

It is hard to comment on whether I thought evacuation was a great success or not. There are too many different sides to the story. Some say that the host parents didn’t care for the children properly, and some say that the health of the children did improve. I think that evacuation was not a success in the early stages of the war. This is because the children were taken away from their homes when there was no apparent need. As the war progressed, I think that the process was a success because the children needed to be taken away from the danger areas.

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