PortCities London

Defending the East End


The leaving of London

Children at station platform during evacuation.
View full size imageChildren being evacuated shortly after the outbreak of war.
When war broke out in September 1939, 1.5 million people were evacuated from London. These were mainly schoolchildren with their teachers, and mothers with pre-school children.

They were sent to Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Devon in one of the greatest social upheavals of modern times.

Children from the East End, with no experience of country life, found themselves living with host families who had even less idea of the ways of the urban slums.

Hosts and ... guests?

Tea party for Bermondsey children evacuated to Worthing.
View full size imageTea party for Bermondsey children evacuated to Worthing.

Many of the hosts complained about having to accommodate dirty and malnourished children from places like Deptford and Bermondsey.

However, several of the evacuations were successful. This picture shows evacuees from Bermondsey enjoying a tea party given by their hosts in Worthing in January 1940.

Return to London

The evacuation of children: feet inspection.
View full size imageChildren having their feet inspected prior to evacuation.
By Christmas 1939 most of those evacuated had returned to London. They preferred to be with their friends and relatives in places they knew rather than being sent away against their wishes.

There was a second evacuation in the summer of 1940 when people expected a German invasion. And once the bombing started in September, a continuous stream of people left the capital.

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