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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Teaching English Language and Literature for Secondary Schools

Kateřina Svídová

The Evacuation of British Schoolchildren During WWII and its Portrayal in Literature

Master’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A.


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


Author’s signature

I would like to thank to my supervisor prof. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A. for her steadfast support. The thesis would not have been written without her endless patience and kind encouragement.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 1

2. Preparation of Evacuation 3

3. Waves of Evacuation 6

3.1 The First Evacuation 6

3.1.1 Evacuation Day 8

3.1.2 Problematic Issues of the First Evacuation 15

3.1.3 The First Evacuation – Success or Not? 32

3.2 The Second Evacuation 33

3.2.1 Evacuation of the Channel Islands 34

3.2.2 The Differences of the Second Evacuation 36

3.3 The Third Evacuation 43

3.3.1 The Differences of the Third Evacuation 44

3.3.2 Coming Back Home 45

4. Taking Part in the Evacuation 46

4.1 Teachers 46

4.2 Billeting Officers and WVS 47

4.3 Foster Parents 47

4.4 Parents 49

4.5 Evacuated Children 51

5. Life of Evacuees 54

5.1 Types of Accommodation 54

5.2 Food 55

5.3 Clothing 56

5.4 Doing Their Bit 57

5.5 Education 58

5.6 Spare Time 60

5.7 Novelty of the Life in the Countryside 61

6. The Impact of the Evacuation 63

6.1 Social Consequences of the Evacuation 63

6.2 Coming Home 65

6.3 Changed Personalities 68

6.4 Did the Experiment Work? 69

7. Portrayal of the Evacuation of Children in Literature 72

7.1 Brief Introduction of Chosen Authors and Their Books 72

7.2 An Analysis of the Chosen Books 75

7.2.1 The Evacuation Day 75

7.2.2 Problematic Issues of the Evacuation 82

7.2.3 Taking Part in the Evacuation 86

7.2.4 Life of Evacuees 102

7.2.5 Impact of the Evacuation 109

8. Conclusion 110

9. Works Cited 113

10. Summary 116

11. Resumé 117

1. Introduction

A lot of people are familiar with the medieval tale about the town of Hamelin. All of a sudden all the children disappeared and the town was stripped of their games, hollering and laughter. Though someone may think that the decision to call the evacuation plan of city children during WWII the Operation Pied Piper gives the whole scheme an eerie atmosphere, the operation had very similar consequences as the actions of the legendary Pied Piper in medieval Hamelin. Out of the blue many British parents of the children from cities and industrial towns experienced the same loss as the parents from the German tale.  However, the British children were not taken away for good by a mysterious stranger, their temporary evacuation was proposed by the government in order to move them from danger zones to the safe ones.

This thesis aims to describe the unique phenomenon of the evacuation of British children during WWII and to provide an analysis  of three books of fiction covering the topic of the evacuation. In order to do so, the thesis consists of two main parts. The first half of the thesis gives factual background which is necessary for the understanding and analysing of the three chosen books. It also provides the reader with numerous testimonies of real evacuees. The second half picks up on the issues from the factual part and explores how they are reflected in the analyzed books. It is important to stress that this thesis focuses exclusively on children who were evacuated on their own and were not accompanied by their mothers as was the case for very young children.

As far as the structure of the thesis is concerned, the second chapter, describing the gradual preparation of the evacuation scheme, is followed by a chapter defining and comparing various waves of the evacuation. There were three waves which chronologically copied the shifting level of danger that Britain was exposed to by the Nazi regime. The very first wave of the evacuation is presented in a very detailed manner, exploring all the aspects that were typical of the first evacuation. The other subchapters, commenting on the second and third wave, focus on the differences from the first wave of the evacuation.

The fourth chapter elaborates the extra efforts and sacrifices made by evacuation´s main protagonists, i.e. the teachers, billeting officers, foster parents, parents and last but not least, the evacuated children. Since the main focal point of the thesis are children and their experience of the evacuation, chapter number five is devoted solely to this aspect and describes what life of the evacuees looked like, be it food, clothing, education, spare time etc.

Chapter number six tries to show the impact of the evacuation. Even though the effects of the evacuation on British society are mentioned and a connection with the Welfare State is identified, the issue is not explored very deeply. On the other hand, the impact of the evacuation on individuals and their families is given a more detailed treatment.

The analytical part of the thesis comes with the seventh chapter. It briefly introduces the authors and reveals that all the three authors, i.e. Ken Chadwick, Nina Bawden and Michael Morpurgo had their own experience with the war time evacuation as children. Their books can be therefore considered for not only fiction but partly also memoirs. As stated before, the structure of the analysis roughly copies the most important chapters from the factual part of the thesis. It is especially designed in this way so that it is apparent to the reader how much the actual events are mirrored in the works of fiction.

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