Many of the children became attached to the members of their host families, sometimes more attached to the ‘hosts’ than their biological parents. This aspect is portrayed in the fictional film ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’. William Beech had come from a very dysfunctional poor family and had suffered much abuse by the hands of his mother thus binding him closely to Mr Tom through the care and comfort shown to him. However, this visual source cannot be fully relied upon, as filmmakers are likely to have made the film more sentimental than real life to gain more interest and money from the film.
Some of the comforts experienced by the children were a great surprise. The ‘middle class’ homes that some evacuees stayed in were positively luxurious in comparison to back home. One description from a child’s experience demonstrates in this text: “We were given flannels and toothbrushes. We’d never cleaned our teeth up till then. “-B. Kops, The World Is A Wedding, 1963. The negative side to evacuation is equally written about. Some children told of their stories of how culturally different life had become: “There is nothing to do in this dump”- A conclusion found in a mass observation survey, performed in Gloucestershire, 1943.
As well as the quiet surroundings, unfortunately some evacuees were bullied; one young 10 year olds account is as follows: “Some Hexham kids pushed him backwards into a cowpat. ” Adding to this humiliation his ‘carer’ “didn’t wash his blazer”- Quoted in R. Westall’s book, Children of the Blitz, 1985. This shows the neglect that evacuees were sometimes subjected to. This neglect or abuse began from when some children first arrived. In the Home Front by N. Williams a photograph depicts the children on display and not looking very happy.
The villagers would come, inspect the children, squabble over, and take the evacuees they thought best. This resulted in the children left behind feeling isolated and ensured a sense of homesickness set in. These children generally ended up split up from their siblings and landed in the poorer or substandard homes. Miss M. Rockard from Cottenham, Cambridge, reflects upon her experience in a letter taken from ‘ Waving Goodbye’ a collection of real life stories about evacuees, she says: “My bed was just an old straw mattress with a flour sack filled with straw for a pillow and a dirty old blanket.
” The Home Front by N. Williams, further endorses this view by stating: “Evacuees were horrified to discover that water had to be fetched from a well and their lavatory was the surrounding fields! ” We have so far looked at the point of view of the evacuees, however the hosts also had their share of highs and lows. On the negative side the national federation of women’s institutes: Town children through country eye, 1940 shows how shocked some hosts were when confronted with “filthy”, “verminous”, and “children lacking any knowledge of clean hygienic habits.
” Hosts found themselves dealing with sibling fights and bad manners: “They had no idea how to use a knife and fork and picked up a fried egg in their fingers. ” Although the evacuees shocked the host families, some good came of the situation. Hosts complained and the government were persuaded to do something about the inadequate conditions of the poorer class life. The government provided hostels, welfare centres, social workers in Reception areas, and many more social amenities.
However as the film Goodnight Mr Tom shows in the relationship between Mr Tom and William, good relationships were formed. This could have been as a result of some hosts being elderly or lonely therefore cherishing the company of children and spoiling them as if they were their own. Some hosts were not so accommodating, either because of ignorance in how to care for children or simply by the lure of the six shillings the evacuee’s families were asked to pay towards upkeep, this was the minimum amount expected. This financial aspect was a bone of contention on both sides of the arrangement.
Evidence shows that evacuation was not a success for the parents of the evacuees as they often became anxious or worried about their children, and were lonely without them. This information was obtained from the evidence chart from The Home Front, N. Williams. However, the chapter entitled ‘going home’ cites that the parents were dissatisfied with their children’s foster homes. Parents were also worried about the damage done to children’s education. Another factor, which persuaded parents to bring home their children, was the financial strain of 6-shilling payment to host families.
Hindsight adds to the view that evacuation was unsuccessful as they highlight that the parents lived a life of perpetual worry. Mothers felt most of these worries, as they would become paranoid about the prospect of children enjoying their new families too much. Evacuation would have been a success had bombing occurred immediately when the war started. However a ‘phoney-war’ had began and many children returned home around the time the actual heavy bombing started. The Home Front shows this opinion: “The extent of this failure was revealed in February1940, after the start of heavy air raids.
” By January 1940, 900 000 of the 1500 000 evacuees had returned to their homes. The evacuation process had failed, many children had returned home in time for heavy air raids. The government tried to re- evacuate but had little response. As little as, 2% of householders in Reception areas were willing to except evacuees and only 20% of children in the Evacuation areas were registered to evacuate. Hindsight portrays the number of posters encouraging parents to return their children to evacuation homes with comments such as: “Don’t do it mother leave the children where they are. ”
The number of evacuated children never reached the same heights as it did with the initial evacuation on the 1st of September 1940. Hindsight shows that: “By 1944 the evacuation scheme had all but stopped and not even the panic caused by Hitler’s flying bombs and rockets could get it started again. ” Overall it seems evacuation was not such a success as first thought. Initially the process was well planned but in the end could not overcome emotions and family ties. Due to the unforeseen ‘phoney war’, evacuation was badly timed. As children began to feel homesick, heavy air raids had started.
As children started to return home, the danger of shelling became greater. Therefore, the evacuation scheme failed to keep children safe from bombs and air raids. Many would say evacuation was a waste of time and money, but people did gain from the process. Children were said to return healthier and better mannered, and the poorer class people were finally noticed and given help from the government. Once many children had returned home the government had no success in encouraging parents to part with their children again and host families rarely wanted them back.