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Operation Pied Piper: The Evacuation of British Cities in World War II

Mar 4, 2022
History
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26
minutes

In September 1939, the British government embarked on the biggest civilian operation in British history when it moved over a million children out of British cities to live with strangers in the countryside.

In this episode, we'll learn about this amazing mission and the mark it left on the country.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Evacuation of British Cities during World War II. 

[00:00:31] Starting in 1939, millions of children were sent away from British cities, in anticipation that the country would be bombed by Hitler’s Nazi forces.

[00:00:42] Lives were thrown into chaos and confusion by this massive wartime mission to safeguard the future of the country - a mission that would have unintended knock-on effects, that is consequences, long after the war ended.

[00:00:58] So, today we are going to tell that story, starting with the background to the evacuation through to how it actually worked, why so many children returned to the cities only to have to run back to the countryside as the bombs started to fall, and how the impact of this huge-scale operation affected the country, and its children. 

[00:01:22] OK then, Operation Pied Piper, the Evacuation of British Cities in World War Two.

[00:01:30] Imagine being a five-year-old child about to board a steam train together with hundreds of other young children — scared, excited, and overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty. 

[00:01:44] The atmosphere of urgency fills the smoky platform as your hand is grabbed by a volunteer marshal and you are ushered onboard the train. 

[00:01:56] In your other hand, you tightly clutch your gas mask. 

[00:02:00] It’s shaped into Mickey Mouse to make you feel less frightened, but you still feel afraid.

[00:02:07] You have a name card with your name and surname written on it. It’s pinned across your chest, so that you can be identified when you get to your final destination.

[00:02:18] With tears in your eyes, you had hugged your mother earlier that morning and bid her farewell with a reluctant kiss. 

[00:02:27] It's your first time being separated from your mother, and you are uncertain when you will return. 

[00:02:34] A whistle sounds and your train leaves Paddington Station, rattling off into the countryside, taking you a world away from the city where you have grown up, the only place you have ever called home.

[00:02:49] You remember the panic and fear in your mother’s eyes. 

[00:02:53] The talk of the Luftwaffe dropping bombs. 

[00:02:55] Fear has spread all across the city. 

[00:02:58] Little do you know it now, but you are making history. You are part of Operation Pied Piper. The evacuation of children, that is the removal of children, from London and from British cities during World War 2. 

[00:03:15] Operation Pied Piper began on a gloomy Friday. It was September 1st, 1939 — two days before Britain declared war on Germany. 

[00:03:26] That very day, Hitler had invaded Poland. 

[00:03:30] He’d broken the promises of peace he had made to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, but one year before. 

[00:03:38] Despite having done its very best to avoid it, Britain knew another global conflict was coming. The public consciousness was still scarred from the so-called ‘Great War’ - the war to end all wars, the war we now call the First World War. 

[00:03:55] Now, Britain and France had little choice but to enter a new war they’d call the Second World War.

[00:04:03] Britain knew that as soon as it declared war, its civilians would be in grave danger of aerial bombings, particularly in strategic targets like London, Birmingham, and Glasgow.

[00:04:17] This was because Britain's home defences, the things put in place to safeguard civilians, were relatively weak. 

[00:04:25] This was one of the reasons why Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister of the UK, had been so reluctant to declare war on Germany.

[00:04:36] London, obviously, was a prime target for bombings because it was the iconic, capital city, the seat of government and the part-time home for the royal family. It also happened to be the closest major British city to mainland Europe

[00:04:53] Badly hurting London and its landmarks would hurt the psyche of the entire British people. 

[00:05:01] London thus had tremendous propaganda as well as strategic value.

[00:05:07] Birmingham was also important as there was a heavy manufacturing industry there that would become essential for the war effort. 

[00:05:16] Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and Glasgow in Scotland, both had important shipyards. These key areas would become a battleground for aerial bombing later on during the war. 

[00:05:31] British politicians were also well aware that Hitler would have no hesitation in bombing civilians into submission. And they were right. This later proved to be the case during what would become known as The Blitz.

[00:05:47] As soon as war broke out, the government knew that there would be no time to waste and it made rapid plans to evacuate the most at-risk cities. It classified the whole country into three zones, with each zone containing roughly a third of the country: 

[00:06:08] Firstly, what's called, Evacuation Zones, these were the most dangerous places from where people would be evacuated. This included the major cities like London and Belfast.

[00:06:21] Secondly, Reception Zones, the places thought safe that would receive the evacuees [that is the people being evacuated] - these were usually remote, rural, places like rural Wales, Kent, and East Anglia. The countryside, essentially.

[00:06:41] And thirdly, Neutral Zones which would neither send nor receive evacuees - such as Kingswood and Mangotsfield in South Gloucestershire, to the west of England.

[00:06:54] Operation Pied Piper was born, and it was one of the most extensive mass migrations in British history. 

[00:07:03] If you remember your fairy tales you might remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

[00:07:10] This creepy character is a piper who is hired by the people of Hamelin to lure the rats away from the town using his magical pipe. 

[00:07:22] However, the townspeople refuse to pay him even though he has done a good job. This angers the piper so he lures all the town's children away from Hamelin as retaliation, as revenge, the same way he did with the rats. The children follow him in a long line as he plays his magic pipe.

[00:07:45] It is somewhat ironic that the British government used the name of a character from a German fairytale to name the military-style operation of removing children from its own cities, but the significance is clear. 

[00:08:01] Nowadays, when we see old photographs from World War 2, or movies recreating those tear-jerking scenes, we see swathes, that's lots, of children going off on trains or being billeted [so being put up] in their new homes in the countryside.

[00:08:20] And this is exactly what happened. 

[00:08:23] However, what many do not know is that it was not just children who were evacuated.

[00:08:30] In total, one and a half million people were evacuated over the course of 3 days at the start of September of 1939. 

[00:08:39] These numbers are incredible even by today’s standards. 

[00:08:43] Of that 1.5 million, 827,000 were school-age children, and 524,000 were children under the age of 5, many of whom did actually go with their mothers. 

[00:08:57] In addition, 13,000 pregnant women were evacuated.

[00:09:01] Now if you have been doing your sums, you will realise that this isn't one and a half million. This doesn't include the 70,000 disabled adults and over 103,000 teachers and other helpers that also left the cities with the children.

[00:09:20] Books rarely talk about these people, but there were plenty of adults who were also sent away in order to make the children’s lives as uninterrupted as possible, given the circumstances.

[00:09:33] And it was not just people that were removed. 

[00:09:37] Objects and businesses were evacuated too. The National Gallery sent its art collection to Wales. The Bank of England moved to a small town in Hampshire [and sent its gold to Canada], and the BBC moved to Bristol and Bedford.

[00:09:57] Speaking of Canada, the British government tried to send children there as well. 

[00:10:03] However, the passenger ships carrying them were torpedoed by German U-boats, the German submarines. 

[00:10:12] 77 children and over 200 adults tragically drowned during one such crossing, and as a result the British government immediately stopped the overseas evacuation scheme, focussing all its efforts on finding safe places for children within Britain’s borders.

[00:10:33] The children arrived at village railways stations both scared and excited at the same time. 

[00:10:40] They were taken to draughty village halls, where the host families would pick which child they wanted to take in.

[00:10:48] Host families bargained over the "presentable" children while the grubbier, dirtier ones were typically chosen last. This must have been a horrible feeling for the last one standing. 

[00:11:03] Imagine being picked last for a football team, but instead of a football team you’re being picked to go and live with a family for several years.

[00:11:15] Siblings, so that is brothers and sisters, were sometimes separated which would have made the whole ordeal much more traumatic.

[00:11:24] Of course, it wasn’t all bad.

[00:11:27] For many inner-city kids, the evacuation meant seeing the countryside for the first time. 

[00:11:34] The thought of playing in the fresh air, seeing farm animals, and three square meals a day excited many who just thought it would be a short holiday. 

[00:11:45] Since the evacuation wasn't compulsory, it was only advised, understandably many parents decided not to send their children away. 

[00:11:55] On September 1st of 1939, when the operation started, Britain wasn’t even at war. 

[00:12:04] There was considerable government propaganda, advising that war was imminent and children needed to be sent away from the dangerous cities, but it’s not hard to understand why some parents were reluctant to be separated from their kids.

[00:12:21] Indeed, only about 47% of children were evacuated in the initial wave, that is the wave of Autumn 1939. 

[00:12:32] Unlike the evacuation, which was voluntary, hosting evacuees was compulsory, the people in the countryside couldn’t say no. 

[00:12:43] The government ordered all host families in evacuation towns and villages to host at least one evacuee

[00:12:52] There was little to no screening as to the host’s character or suitability - in short, no interviews or application procedure making sure that the host was able to look after a child.

[00:13:07] The host families were paid 10 shillings and sixpence per week for the first unaccompanied child. 

[00:13:15] That is around 35 Euros in today's money. 

[00:13:19] If a host family took in subsequent children, if they took in more children, they would be paid 8 shillings and sixpence for each child, so just under 30 Euros per week for every extra child they took. 

[00:13:34] In September 1939, these children went to live with complete strangers, and their mothers allowed themselves to be separated from them in the misguided belief that it would only be for a short period of time. 

[00:13:50] As more time went on without Hitler’s anticipated bombings happening, the cities seemed safe that autumn.

[00:13:59] No bombs fell, and it seemed like all of this operation had been for nothing.

[00:14:05] Many parents wanted to get their kids back home, labelling the war as a "phoney war."

[00:14:12] It was a false alarm, they said. We want our kids back.

[00:14:16] The government propaganda now went into overdrive, saying that parents should keep their children in the care of host families. 

[00:14:25] Posters went up all over the cities saying things like "Don't Do It, Mother. Leave the Children Where They Are". 

[00:14:34] Unfortunately, this wasn't effective enough to change most parents' minds. By January of 1940, almost 60% of the children who had been evacuated had returned home. 

[00:14:48] But they returned to the cities just as the German bombs started to fall.

[00:14:54] 1940 would become known as the year of the Blitz. 

[00:14:58] Starting in September, wave upon wave of German bombers dropped bomb after bomb on British cities. 

[00:15:06] Coventry [a city that helped produce arms for the war effort] burned for days, and huge parts of London’s East End were flattened.

[00:15:16] It was clear now that the government had been right, Hitler meant business, and that these cities were the most dangerous places in Britain.

[00:15:27] The entire process started again, with many children being sent back to the countryside after having been brought back to the cities when they seemed safe.

[00:15:39] Over the course of the war, there would be three main waves of evacuations. 

[00:15:44] The first in September 1939, the second during the Blitz in 1940, and the third and final evacuation being in June 1944 when Germany fired V1 followed by V2 rockets at British cities. 

[00:16:02] In total over 3.5 million children were evacuated from British cities during World War Two. That’s almost 10% of the entire population. 

[00:16:14] The end of the war in Europe brought an end to the mass evacuation scheme, and children started to return home, some of them now almost adults.

[00:16:26] In March of 1946, almost a year after the war in Europe had ended, the evacuation was officially over. 

[00:16:35] This evacuation, to remind you, was optional, but going back after the war had ended was mandatory, this meant people had no choice. 

[00:16:46] As you can imagine, returning to your mother and father after years apart must have been for many a joyous occasion. The war was over, you were finally reunited with your parents, and the fear and uncertainty of war was finally over.

[00:17:04] But it certainly wasn’t joyous for everyone.

[00:17:08] For many children they returned to find that they had no father, no mother, or no father and mother.

[00:17:17] For some, especially the younger ones, it must have meant going back to a family they did not remember. 

[00:17:24] For others, both they and their parents were now different people, and some children went back to a family who no longer wanted them.

[00:17:34] Some parents were so used to not having kids around that it was an added responsibility and financial burden when their evacuated children returned home.

[00:17:46] Not to mention that the children were now almost strangers to them.

[00:17:50] Their children had been gone for four or five years. The changes in appearances, outlook, and ideas were often difficult to overlook

[00:18:02] Many children had already picked up a rural accent or countryside ways. They were now very different people to their parents.

[00:18:13] One former evacuee recounts how his own mother could not deal with the newfound love of books and learning his foster parents had given him. 

[00:18:24] Some children were shocked to discover that their parents’ lifestyles clashed with the ways they now knew. One boy, returning from Canada, was horrified that his mother wore makeup, smoked and drank.

[00:18:41] There are even stories of kind host families who adopted the children they had looked after, whose parents had died or could not take care of them. 

[00:18:51] One evacuee who was fostered by a childless couple in Cornwall, had a blissful evacuation experience. When he returned “home”, he felt like a fish out of water, that is out of place and not fitting in

[00:19:07] His own mother, realising how unhappy he was, wrote to his foster parents asking them if they wished to adopt him and they did so, welcoming him back with open arms.

[00:19:20] For other foster families who had built a deep bond with the evacuees, it was understandably heartrending to let them go.

[00:19:30] The evacuations made an immense impact on the psyche, that is the mind, of the nation, and there is an entire genre of literature and film based on this shared experience.

[00:19:44] Evacuees' individual experiences ran the whole gamut, that is the whole range, from excellent to terrible. 

[00:19:52] For kids whose host families made them work from dawn to dusk in the fields, the experience was understandably, slightly unpleasant. 

[00:20:02] However, many recalled their evacuation days as moments of pure joy and happiness. 

[00:20:09] They remembered the fun and fear of hopping from one host family to another, the shock of discovering that there was no inside toilet or bathroom, the awe of seeing the first cow, or discovering where milk comes from, and the humbling experience of working on the farm. 

[00:20:29] Now, it is hard, nigh impossible, for there to be such a huge operation without it impacting the lives of the individuals for years to come, and this experience, Operation Pied Piper, reshaped an entire generation of youth. 

[00:20:47] There was a recent study by Birkbeck College, which is part of the University of London, called "Long-term effects of the British evacuation of children during World War 2 on their adult mental health", and this shed some light on the devastating effects on adult mental health due to temporary childhood separation caused by the evacuation. 

[00:21:12] The study revealed that children evacuated when they were between 4 and 6 years old and those who received poor foster care were at greater risk of depression and clinical anxiety and that they would have high levels of self-criticism. 

[00:21:30] Older evacuated children who had received relatively good care were found to be less prone to such mental disorders. 

[00:21:40] All these findings only reinforced the findings of Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, who, in 1941, conducted a study on the psychological impact of evacuation. 

[00:21:54] She concluded that, "separation from their parents is a worse shock for children than a bombing." 

[00:22:02] The effects of Operation Pied Piper weren’t only on the individuals, but on British society as a whole. 

[00:22:10] It heavily disrupted the schooling and education of many young children. 

[00:22:15] It also shone a light on the level of urban poverty that Britain had been suffering, and the extent of economic and social deprivation within British cities.

[00:22:28] During the evacuation, whether you were rich or poor didn’t matter. Working-class children mixed with kids from rich families, and for many it was the first time that they had seen how “the other side” lived.

[00:22:43] The class structure in Britain was dealt a huge blow, paving way for the massive changes the swinging 60s and 70s would bring, moulded by the now grown-up evacuee generation.

[00:22:58] And this was a generation with this huge, shared experience, this shared memory. Almost everyone had been touched in some way, whether that was the children being evacuated, or the children in the countryside whose families had welcomed evacuees

[00:23:17] We can perhaps point to some shared experiences in recent memory that have a similar power, a similar strength, but it’s hard to think of anything that lasted for so long and impacted such a large proportion of the population at such an impressionable age. 

[00:23:37] It brought together urban and rural, rich and poor, and people from all over the UK in a bonding experience of the scale that the country had never experienced before and has not experienced since.

[00:23:52] It certainly wasn't perfect, and undoubtedly for many it caused a great deal of hurt and agony that would last a lifetime, but it was an operation that saved probably thousands of children’s lives, and on that basis alone, it has gone down as one of the most important operations in British 20th century history.

[00:24:17] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Operation Pied Piper, The Evacuation of British Cities in World War II. 

[00:24:26] Of course, there is a huge amount more to talk about on this subject, and we only just scratched the surface. From evacuations of children in mainland Europe through to modern evacuations of warzones, I’m sorry we didn’t have time to discuss it all.

[00:24:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:47] Did you know much about the evacuation of British cities? Were cities in your country evacuated during World War Two, and how was that different to Britain?

[00:24:58] Perhaps, if you are one of our older listeners, you might even have been evacuated yourself, or perhaps you remember stories your parents or grandparents told you about this period.

[00:25:10] I would love to know, so please feel free to share your thoughts and memories.

[00:25:15] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:25:24] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Evacuation of British Cities during World War II. 

[00:00:31] Starting in 1939, millions of children were sent away from British cities, in anticipation that the country would be bombed by Hitler’s Nazi forces.

[00:00:42] Lives were thrown into chaos and confusion by this massive wartime mission to safeguard the future of the country - a mission that would have unintended knock-on effects, that is consequences, long after the war ended.

[00:00:58] So, today we are going to tell that story, starting with the background to the evacuation through to how it actually worked, why so many children returned to the cities only to have to run back to the countryside as the bombs started to fall, and how the impact of this huge-scale operation affected the country, and its children. 

[00:01:22] OK then, Operation Pied Piper, the Evacuation of British Cities in World War Two.

[00:01:30] Imagine being a five-year-old child about to board a steam train together with hundreds of other young children — scared, excited, and overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty. 

[00:01:44] The atmosphere of urgency fills the smoky platform as your hand is grabbed by a volunteer marshal and you are ushered onboard the train. 

[00:01:56] In your other hand, you tightly clutch your gas mask. 

[00:02:00] It’s shaped into Mickey Mouse to make you feel less frightened, but you still feel afraid.

[00:02:07] You have a name card with your name and surname written on it. It’s pinned across your chest, so that you can be identified when you get to your final destination.

[00:02:18] With tears in your eyes, you had hugged your mother earlier that morning and bid her farewell with a reluctant kiss. 

[00:02:27] It's your first time being separated from your mother, and you are uncertain when you will return. 

[00:02:34] A whistle sounds and your train leaves Paddington Station, rattling off into the countryside, taking you a world away from the city where you have grown up, the only place you have ever called home.

[00:02:49] You remember the panic and fear in your mother’s eyes. 

[00:02:53] The talk of the Luftwaffe dropping bombs. 

[00:02:55] Fear has spread all across the city. 

[00:02:58] Little do you know it now, but you are making history. You are part of Operation Pied Piper. The evacuation of children, that is the removal of children, from London and from British cities during World War 2. 

[00:03:15] Operation Pied Piper began on a gloomy Friday. It was September 1st, 1939 — two days before Britain declared war on Germany. 

[00:03:26] That very day, Hitler had invaded Poland. 

[00:03:30] He’d broken the promises of peace he had made to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, but one year before. 

[00:03:38] Despite having done its very best to avoid it, Britain knew another global conflict was coming. The public consciousness was still scarred from the so-called ‘Great War’ - the war to end all wars, the war we now call the First World War. 

[00:03:55] Now, Britain and France had little choice but to enter a new war they’d call the Second World War.

[00:04:03] Britain knew that as soon as it declared war, its civilians would be in grave danger of aerial bombings, particularly in strategic targets like London, Birmingham, and Glasgow.

[00:04:17] This was because Britain's home defences, the things put in place to safeguard civilians, were relatively weak. 

[00:04:25] This was one of the reasons why Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister of the UK, had been so reluctant to declare war on Germany.

[00:04:36] London, obviously, was a prime target for bombings because it was the iconic, capital city, the seat of government and the part-time home for the royal family. It also happened to be the closest major British city to mainland Europe

[00:04:53] Badly hurting London and its landmarks would hurt the psyche of the entire British people. 

[00:05:01] London thus had tremendous propaganda as well as strategic value.

[00:05:07] Birmingham was also important as there was a heavy manufacturing industry there that would become essential for the war effort. 

[00:05:16] Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and Glasgow in Scotland, both had important shipyards. These key areas would become a battleground for aerial bombing later on during the war. 

[00:05:31] British politicians were also well aware that Hitler would have no hesitation in bombing civilians into submission. And they were right. This later proved to be the case during what would become known as The Blitz.

[00:05:47] As soon as war broke out, the government knew that there would be no time to waste and it made rapid plans to evacuate the most at-risk cities. It classified the whole country into three zones, with each zone containing roughly a third of the country: 

[00:06:08] Firstly, what's called, Evacuation Zones, these were the most dangerous places from where people would be evacuated. This included the major cities like London and Belfast.

[00:06:21] Secondly, Reception Zones, the places thought safe that would receive the evacuees [that is the people being evacuated] - these were usually remote, rural, places like rural Wales, Kent, and East Anglia. The countryside, essentially.

[00:06:41] And thirdly, Neutral Zones which would neither send nor receive evacuees - such as Kingswood and Mangotsfield in South Gloucestershire, to the west of England.

[00:06:54] Operation Pied Piper was born, and it was one of the most extensive mass migrations in British history. 

[00:07:03] If you remember your fairy tales you might remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

[00:07:10] This creepy character is a piper who is hired by the people of Hamelin to lure the rats away from the town using his magical pipe. 

[00:07:22] However, the townspeople refuse to pay him even though he has done a good job. This angers the piper so he lures all the town's children away from Hamelin as retaliation, as revenge, the same way he did with the rats. The children follow him in a long line as he plays his magic pipe.

[00:07:45] It is somewhat ironic that the British government used the name of a character from a German fairytale to name the military-style operation of removing children from its own cities, but the significance is clear. 

[00:08:01] Nowadays, when we see old photographs from World War 2, or movies recreating those tear-jerking scenes, we see swathes, that's lots, of children going off on trains or being billeted [so being put up] in their new homes in the countryside.

[00:08:20] And this is exactly what happened. 

[00:08:23] However, what many do not know is that it was not just children who were evacuated.

[00:08:30] In total, one and a half million people were evacuated over the course of 3 days at the start of September of 1939. 

[00:08:39] These numbers are incredible even by today’s standards. 

[00:08:43] Of that 1.5 million, 827,000 were school-age children, and 524,000 were children under the age of 5, many of whom did actually go with their mothers. 

[00:08:57] In addition, 13,000 pregnant women were evacuated.

[00:09:01] Now if you have been doing your sums, you will realise that this isn't one and a half million. This doesn't include the 70,000 disabled adults and over 103,000 teachers and other helpers that also left the cities with the children.

[00:09:20] Books rarely talk about these people, but there were plenty of adults who were also sent away in order to make the children’s lives as uninterrupted as possible, given the circumstances.

[00:09:33] And it was not just people that were removed. 

[00:09:37] Objects and businesses were evacuated too. The National Gallery sent its art collection to Wales. The Bank of England moved to a small town in Hampshire [and sent its gold to Canada], and the BBC moved to Bristol and Bedford.

[00:09:57] Speaking of Canada, the British government tried to send children there as well. 

[00:10:03] However, the passenger ships carrying them were torpedoed by German U-boats, the German submarines. 

[00:10:12] 77 children and over 200 adults tragically drowned during one such crossing, and as a result the British government immediately stopped the overseas evacuation scheme, focussing all its efforts on finding safe places for children within Britain’s borders.

[00:10:33] The children arrived at village railways stations both scared and excited at the same time. 

[00:10:40] They were taken to draughty village halls, where the host families would pick which child they wanted to take in.

[00:10:48] Host families bargained over the "presentable" children while the grubbier, dirtier ones were typically chosen last. This must have been a horrible feeling for the last one standing. 

[00:11:03] Imagine being picked last for a football team, but instead of a football team you’re being picked to go and live with a family for several years.

[00:11:15] Siblings, so that is brothers and sisters, were sometimes separated which would have made the whole ordeal much more traumatic.

[00:11:24] Of course, it wasn’t all bad.

[00:11:27] For many inner-city kids, the evacuation meant seeing the countryside for the first time. 

[00:11:34] The thought of playing in the fresh air, seeing farm animals, and three square meals a day excited many who just thought it would be a short holiday. 

[00:11:45] Since the evacuation wasn't compulsory, it was only advised, understandably many parents decided not to send their children away. 

[00:11:55] On September 1st of 1939, when the operation started, Britain wasn’t even at war. 

[00:12:04] There was considerable government propaganda, advising that war was imminent and children needed to be sent away from the dangerous cities, but it’s not hard to understand why some parents were reluctant to be separated from their kids.

[00:12:21] Indeed, only about 47% of children were evacuated in the initial wave, that is the wave of Autumn 1939. 

[00:12:32] Unlike the evacuation, which was voluntary, hosting evacuees was compulsory, the people in the countryside couldn’t say no. 

[00:12:43] The government ordered all host families in evacuation towns and villages to host at least one evacuee

[00:12:52] There was little to no screening as to the host’s character or suitability - in short, no interviews or application procedure making sure that the host was able to look after a child.

[00:13:07] The host families were paid 10 shillings and sixpence per week for the first unaccompanied child. 

[00:13:15] That is around 35 Euros in today's money. 

[00:13:19] If a host family took in subsequent children, if they took in more children, they would be paid 8 shillings and sixpence for each child, so just under 30 Euros per week for every extra child they took. 

[00:13:34] In September 1939, these children went to live with complete strangers, and their mothers allowed themselves to be separated from them in the misguided belief that it would only be for a short period of time. 

[00:13:50] As more time went on without Hitler’s anticipated bombings happening, the cities seemed safe that autumn.

[00:13:59] No bombs fell, and it seemed like all of this operation had been for nothing.

[00:14:05] Many parents wanted to get their kids back home, labelling the war as a "phoney war."

[00:14:12] It was a false alarm, they said. We want our kids back.

[00:14:16] The government propaganda now went into overdrive, saying that parents should keep their children in the care of host families. 

[00:14:25] Posters went up all over the cities saying things like "Don't Do It, Mother. Leave the Children Where They Are". 

[00:14:34] Unfortunately, this wasn't effective enough to change most parents' minds. By January of 1940, almost 60% of the children who had been evacuated had returned home. 

[00:14:48] But they returned to the cities just as the German bombs started to fall.

[00:14:54] 1940 would become known as the year of the Blitz. 

[00:14:58] Starting in September, wave upon wave of German bombers dropped bomb after bomb on British cities. 

[00:15:06] Coventry [a city that helped produce arms for the war effort] burned for days, and huge parts of London’s East End were flattened.

[00:15:16] It was clear now that the government had been right, Hitler meant business, and that these cities were the most dangerous places in Britain.

[00:15:27] The entire process started again, with many children being sent back to the countryside after having been brought back to the cities when they seemed safe.

[00:15:39] Over the course of the war, there would be three main waves of evacuations. 

[00:15:44] The first in September 1939, the second during the Blitz in 1940, and the third and final evacuation being in June 1944 when Germany fired V1 followed by V2 rockets at British cities. 

[00:16:02] In total over 3.5 million children were evacuated from British cities during World War Two. That’s almost 10% of the entire population. 

[00:16:14] The end of the war in Europe brought an end to the mass evacuation scheme, and children started to return home, some of them now almost adults.

[00:16:26] In March of 1946, almost a year after the war in Europe had ended, the evacuation was officially over. 

[00:16:35] This evacuation, to remind you, was optional, but going back after the war had ended was mandatory, this meant people had no choice. 

[00:16:46] As you can imagine, returning to your mother and father after years apart must have been for many a joyous occasion. The war was over, you were finally reunited with your parents, and the fear and uncertainty of war was finally over.

[00:17:04] But it certainly wasn’t joyous for everyone.

[00:17:08] For many children they returned to find that they had no father, no mother, or no father and mother.

[00:17:17] For some, especially the younger ones, it must have meant going back to a family they did not remember. 

[00:17:24] For others, both they and their parents were now different people, and some children went back to a family who no longer wanted them.

[00:17:34] Some parents were so used to not having kids around that it was an added responsibility and financial burden when their evacuated children returned home.

[00:17:46] Not to mention that the children were now almost strangers to them.

[00:17:50] Their children had been gone for four or five years. The changes in appearances, outlook, and ideas were often difficult to overlook

[00:18:02] Many children had already picked up a rural accent or countryside ways. They were now very different people to their parents.

[00:18:13] One former evacuee recounts how his own mother could not deal with the newfound love of books and learning his foster parents had given him. 

[00:18:24] Some children were shocked to discover that their parents’ lifestyles clashed with the ways they now knew. One boy, returning from Canada, was horrified that his mother wore makeup, smoked and drank.

[00:18:41] There are even stories of kind host families who adopted the children they had looked after, whose parents had died or could not take care of them. 

[00:18:51] One evacuee who was fostered by a childless couple in Cornwall, had a blissful evacuation experience. When he returned “home”, he felt like a fish out of water, that is out of place and not fitting in

[00:19:07] His own mother, realising how unhappy he was, wrote to his foster parents asking them if they wished to adopt him and they did so, welcoming him back with open arms.

[00:19:20] For other foster families who had built a deep bond with the evacuees, it was understandably heartrending to let them go.

[00:19:30] The evacuations made an immense impact on the psyche, that is the mind, of the nation, and there is an entire genre of literature and film based on this shared experience.

[00:19:44] Evacuees' individual experiences ran the whole gamut, that is the whole range, from excellent to terrible. 

[00:19:52] For kids whose host families made them work from dawn to dusk in the fields, the experience was understandably, slightly unpleasant. 

[00:20:02] However, many recalled their evacuation days as moments of pure joy and happiness. 

[00:20:09] They remembered the fun and fear of hopping from one host family to another, the shock of discovering that there was no inside toilet or bathroom, the awe of seeing the first cow, or discovering where milk comes from, and the humbling experience of working on the farm. 

[00:20:29] Now, it is hard, nigh impossible, for there to be such a huge operation without it impacting the lives of the individuals for years to come, and this experience, Operation Pied Piper, reshaped an entire generation of youth. 

[00:20:47] There was a recent study by Birkbeck College, which is part of the University of London, called "Long-term effects of the British evacuation of children during World War 2 on their adult mental health", and this shed some light on the devastating effects on adult mental health due to temporary childhood separation caused by the evacuation. 

[00:21:12] The study revealed that children evacuated when they were between 4 and 6 years old and those who received poor foster care were at greater risk of depression and clinical anxiety and that they would have high levels of self-criticism. 

[00:21:30] Older evacuated children who had received relatively good care were found to be less prone to such mental disorders. 

[00:21:40] All these findings only reinforced the findings of Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, who, in 1941, conducted a study on the psychological impact of evacuation. 

[00:21:54] She concluded that, "separation from their parents is a worse shock for children than a bombing." 

[00:22:02] The effects of Operation Pied Piper weren’t only on the individuals, but on British society as a whole. 

[00:22:10] It heavily disrupted the schooling and education of many young children. 

[00:22:15] It also shone a light on the level of urban poverty that Britain had been suffering, and the extent of economic and social deprivation within British cities.

[00:22:28] During the evacuation, whether you were rich or poor didn’t matter. Working-class children mixed with kids from rich families, and for many it was the first time that they had seen how “the other side” lived.

[00:22:43] The class structure in Britain was dealt a huge blow, paving way for the massive changes the swinging 60s and 70s would bring, moulded by the now grown-up evacuee generation.

[00:22:58] And this was a generation with this huge, shared experience, this shared memory. Almost everyone had been touched in some way, whether that was the children being evacuated, or the children in the countryside whose families had welcomed evacuees

[00:23:17] We can perhaps point to some shared experiences in recent memory that have a similar power, a similar strength, but it’s hard to think of anything that lasted for so long and impacted such a large proportion of the population at such an impressionable age. 

[00:23:37] It brought together urban and rural, rich and poor, and people from all over the UK in a bonding experience of the scale that the country had never experienced before and has not experienced since.

[00:23:52] It certainly wasn't perfect, and undoubtedly for many it caused a great deal of hurt and agony that would last a lifetime, but it was an operation that saved probably thousands of children’s lives, and on that basis alone, it has gone down as one of the most important operations in British 20th century history.

[00:24:17] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Operation Pied Piper, The Evacuation of British Cities in World War II. 

[00:24:26] Of course, there is a huge amount more to talk about on this subject, and we only just scratched the surface. From evacuations of children in mainland Europe through to modern evacuations of warzones, I’m sorry we didn’t have time to discuss it all.

[00:24:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:47] Did you know much about the evacuation of British cities? Were cities in your country evacuated during World War Two, and how was that different to Britain?

[00:24:58] Perhaps, if you are one of our older listeners, you might even have been evacuated yourself, or perhaps you remember stories your parents or grandparents told you about this period.

[00:25:10] I would love to know, so please feel free to share your thoughts and memories.

[00:25:15] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:25:24] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]


[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:21] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the Evacuation of British Cities during World War II. 

[00:00:31] Starting in 1939, millions of children were sent away from British cities, in anticipation that the country would be bombed by Hitler’s Nazi forces.

[00:00:42] Lives were thrown into chaos and confusion by this massive wartime mission to safeguard the future of the country - a mission that would have unintended knock-on effects, that is consequences, long after the war ended.

[00:00:58] So, today we are going to tell that story, starting with the background to the evacuation through to how it actually worked, why so many children returned to the cities only to have to run back to the countryside as the bombs started to fall, and how the impact of this huge-scale operation affected the country, and its children. 

[00:01:22] OK then, Operation Pied Piper, the Evacuation of British Cities in World War Two.

[00:01:30] Imagine being a five-year-old child about to board a steam train together with hundreds of other young children — scared, excited, and overwhelmed with feelings of uncertainty. 

[00:01:44] The atmosphere of urgency fills the smoky platform as your hand is grabbed by a volunteer marshal and you are ushered onboard the train. 

[00:01:56] In your other hand, you tightly clutch your gas mask. 

[00:02:00] It’s shaped into Mickey Mouse to make you feel less frightened, but you still feel afraid.

[00:02:07] You have a name card with your name and surname written on it. It’s pinned across your chest, so that you can be identified when you get to your final destination.

[00:02:18] With tears in your eyes, you had hugged your mother earlier that morning and bid her farewell with a reluctant kiss. 

[00:02:27] It's your first time being separated from your mother, and you are uncertain when you will return. 

[00:02:34] A whistle sounds and your train leaves Paddington Station, rattling off into the countryside, taking you a world away from the city where you have grown up, the only place you have ever called home.

[00:02:49] You remember the panic and fear in your mother’s eyes. 

[00:02:53] The talk of the Luftwaffe dropping bombs. 

[00:02:55] Fear has spread all across the city. 

[00:02:58] Little do you know it now, but you are making history. You are part of Operation Pied Piper. The evacuation of children, that is the removal of children, from London and from British cities during World War 2. 

[00:03:15] Operation Pied Piper began on a gloomy Friday. It was September 1st, 1939 — two days before Britain declared war on Germany. 

[00:03:26] That very day, Hitler had invaded Poland. 

[00:03:30] He’d broken the promises of peace he had made to the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, but one year before. 

[00:03:38] Despite having done its very best to avoid it, Britain knew another global conflict was coming. The public consciousness was still scarred from the so-called ‘Great War’ - the war to end all wars, the war we now call the First World War. 

[00:03:55] Now, Britain and France had little choice but to enter a new war they’d call the Second World War.

[00:04:03] Britain knew that as soon as it declared war, its civilians would be in grave danger of aerial bombings, particularly in strategic targets like London, Birmingham, and Glasgow.

[00:04:17] This was because Britain's home defences, the things put in place to safeguard civilians, were relatively weak. 

[00:04:25] This was one of the reasons why Neville Chamberlain, the then Prime Minister of the UK, had been so reluctant to declare war on Germany.

[00:04:36] London, obviously, was a prime target for bombings because it was the iconic, capital city, the seat of government and the part-time home for the royal family. It also happened to be the closest major British city to mainland Europe

[00:04:53] Badly hurting London and its landmarks would hurt the psyche of the entire British people. 

[00:05:01] London thus had tremendous propaganda as well as strategic value.

[00:05:07] Birmingham was also important as there was a heavy manufacturing industry there that would become essential for the war effort. 

[00:05:16] Belfast, in Northern Ireland, and Glasgow in Scotland, both had important shipyards. These key areas would become a battleground for aerial bombing later on during the war. 

[00:05:31] British politicians were also well aware that Hitler would have no hesitation in bombing civilians into submission. And they were right. This later proved to be the case during what would become known as The Blitz.

[00:05:47] As soon as war broke out, the government knew that there would be no time to waste and it made rapid plans to evacuate the most at-risk cities. It classified the whole country into three zones, with each zone containing roughly a third of the country: 

[00:06:08] Firstly, what's called, Evacuation Zones, these were the most dangerous places from where people would be evacuated. This included the major cities like London and Belfast.

[00:06:21] Secondly, Reception Zones, the places thought safe that would receive the evacuees [that is the people being evacuated] - these were usually remote, rural, places like rural Wales, Kent, and East Anglia. The countryside, essentially.

[00:06:41] And thirdly, Neutral Zones which would neither send nor receive evacuees - such as Kingswood and Mangotsfield in South Gloucestershire, to the west of England.

[00:06:54] Operation Pied Piper was born, and it was one of the most extensive mass migrations in British history. 

[00:07:03] If you remember your fairy tales you might remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin. 

[00:07:10] This creepy character is a piper who is hired by the people of Hamelin to lure the rats away from the town using his magical pipe. 

[00:07:22] However, the townspeople refuse to pay him even though he has done a good job. This angers the piper so he lures all the town's children away from Hamelin as retaliation, as revenge, the same way he did with the rats. The children follow him in a long line as he plays his magic pipe.

[00:07:45] It is somewhat ironic that the British government used the name of a character from a German fairytale to name the military-style operation of removing children from its own cities, but the significance is clear. 

[00:08:01] Nowadays, when we see old photographs from World War 2, or movies recreating those tear-jerking scenes, we see swathes, that's lots, of children going off on trains or being billeted [so being put up] in their new homes in the countryside.

[00:08:20] And this is exactly what happened. 

[00:08:23] However, what many do not know is that it was not just children who were evacuated.

[00:08:30] In total, one and a half million people were evacuated over the course of 3 days at the start of September of 1939. 

[00:08:39] These numbers are incredible even by today’s standards. 

[00:08:43] Of that 1.5 million, 827,000 were school-age children, and 524,000 were children under the age of 5, many of whom did actually go with their mothers. 

[00:08:57] In addition, 13,000 pregnant women were evacuated.

[00:09:01] Now if you have been doing your sums, you will realise that this isn't one and a half million. This doesn't include the 70,000 disabled adults and over 103,000 teachers and other helpers that also left the cities with the children.

[00:09:20] Books rarely talk about these people, but there were plenty of adults who were also sent away in order to make the children’s lives as uninterrupted as possible, given the circumstances.

[00:09:33] And it was not just people that were removed. 

[00:09:37] Objects and businesses were evacuated too. The National Gallery sent its art collection to Wales. The Bank of England moved to a small town in Hampshire [and sent its gold to Canada], and the BBC moved to Bristol and Bedford.

[00:09:57] Speaking of Canada, the British government tried to send children there as well. 

[00:10:03] However, the passenger ships carrying them were torpedoed by German U-boats, the German submarines. 

[00:10:12] 77 children and over 200 adults tragically drowned during one such crossing, and as a result the British government immediately stopped the overseas evacuation scheme, focussing all its efforts on finding safe places for children within Britain’s borders.

[00:10:33] The children arrived at village railways stations both scared and excited at the same time. 

[00:10:40] They were taken to draughty village halls, where the host families would pick which child they wanted to take in.

[00:10:48] Host families bargained over the "presentable" children while the grubbier, dirtier ones were typically chosen last. This must have been a horrible feeling for the last one standing. 

[00:11:03] Imagine being picked last for a football team, but instead of a football team you’re being picked to go and live with a family for several years.

[00:11:15] Siblings, so that is brothers and sisters, were sometimes separated which would have made the whole ordeal much more traumatic.

[00:11:24] Of course, it wasn’t all bad.

[00:11:27] For many inner-city kids, the evacuation meant seeing the countryside for the first time. 

[00:11:34] The thought of playing in the fresh air, seeing farm animals, and three square meals a day excited many who just thought it would be a short holiday. 

[00:11:45] Since the evacuation wasn't compulsory, it was only advised, understandably many parents decided not to send their children away. 

[00:11:55] On September 1st of 1939, when the operation started, Britain wasn’t even at war. 

[00:12:04] There was considerable government propaganda, advising that war was imminent and children needed to be sent away from the dangerous cities, but it’s not hard to understand why some parents were reluctant to be separated from their kids.

[00:12:21] Indeed, only about 47% of children were evacuated in the initial wave, that is the wave of Autumn 1939. 

[00:12:32] Unlike the evacuation, which was voluntary, hosting evacuees was compulsory, the people in the countryside couldn’t say no. 

[00:12:43] The government ordered all host families in evacuation towns and villages to host at least one evacuee

[00:12:52] There was little to no screening as to the host’s character or suitability - in short, no interviews or application procedure making sure that the host was able to look after a child.

[00:13:07] The host families were paid 10 shillings and sixpence per week for the first unaccompanied child. 

[00:13:15] That is around 35 Euros in today's money. 

[00:13:19] If a host family took in subsequent children, if they took in more children, they would be paid 8 shillings and sixpence for each child, so just under 30 Euros per week for every extra child they took. 

[00:13:34] In September 1939, these children went to live with complete strangers, and their mothers allowed themselves to be separated from them in the misguided belief that it would only be for a short period of time. 

[00:13:50] As more time went on without Hitler’s anticipated bombings happening, the cities seemed safe that autumn.

[00:13:59] No bombs fell, and it seemed like all of this operation had been for nothing.

[00:14:05] Many parents wanted to get their kids back home, labelling the war as a "phoney war."

[00:14:12] It was a false alarm, they said. We want our kids back.

[00:14:16] The government propaganda now went into overdrive, saying that parents should keep their children in the care of host families. 

[00:14:25] Posters went up all over the cities saying things like "Don't Do It, Mother. Leave the Children Where They Are". 

[00:14:34] Unfortunately, this wasn't effective enough to change most parents' minds. By January of 1940, almost 60% of the children who had been evacuated had returned home. 

[00:14:48] But they returned to the cities just as the German bombs started to fall.

[00:14:54] 1940 would become known as the year of the Blitz. 

[00:14:58] Starting in September, wave upon wave of German bombers dropped bomb after bomb on British cities. 

[00:15:06] Coventry [a city that helped produce arms for the war effort] burned for days, and huge parts of London’s East End were flattened.

[00:15:16] It was clear now that the government had been right, Hitler meant business, and that these cities were the most dangerous places in Britain.

[00:15:27] The entire process started again, with many children being sent back to the countryside after having been brought back to the cities when they seemed safe.

[00:15:39] Over the course of the war, there would be three main waves of evacuations. 

[00:15:44] The first in September 1939, the second during the Blitz in 1940, and the third and final evacuation being in June 1944 when Germany fired V1 followed by V2 rockets at British cities. 

[00:16:02] In total over 3.5 million children were evacuated from British cities during World War Two. That’s almost 10% of the entire population. 

[00:16:14] The end of the war in Europe brought an end to the mass evacuation scheme, and children started to return home, some of them now almost adults.

[00:16:26] In March of 1946, almost a year after the war in Europe had ended, the evacuation was officially over. 

[00:16:35] This evacuation, to remind you, was optional, but going back after the war had ended was mandatory, this meant people had no choice. 

[00:16:46] As you can imagine, returning to your mother and father after years apart must have been for many a joyous occasion. The war was over, you were finally reunited with your parents, and the fear and uncertainty of war was finally over.

[00:17:04] But it certainly wasn’t joyous for everyone.

[00:17:08] For many children they returned to find that they had no father, no mother, or no father and mother.

[00:17:17] For some, especially the younger ones, it must have meant going back to a family they did not remember. 

[00:17:24] For others, both they and their parents were now different people, and some children went back to a family who no longer wanted them.

[00:17:34] Some parents were so used to not having kids around that it was an added responsibility and financial burden when their evacuated children returned home.

[00:17:46] Not to mention that the children were now almost strangers to them.

[00:17:50] Their children had been gone for four or five years. The changes in appearances, outlook, and ideas were often difficult to overlook

[00:18:02] Many children had already picked up a rural accent or countryside ways. They were now very different people to their parents.

[00:18:13] One former evacuee recounts how his own mother could not deal with the newfound love of books and learning his foster parents had given him. 

[00:18:24] Some children were shocked to discover that their parents’ lifestyles clashed with the ways they now knew. One boy, returning from Canada, was horrified that his mother wore makeup, smoked and drank.

[00:18:41] There are even stories of kind host families who adopted the children they had looked after, whose parents had died or could not take care of them. 

[00:18:51] One evacuee who was fostered by a childless couple in Cornwall, had a blissful evacuation experience. When he returned “home”, he felt like a fish out of water, that is out of place and not fitting in

[00:19:07] His own mother, realising how unhappy he was, wrote to his foster parents asking them if they wished to adopt him and they did so, welcoming him back with open arms.

[00:19:20] For other foster families who had built a deep bond with the evacuees, it was understandably heartrending to let them go.

[00:19:30] The evacuations made an immense impact on the psyche, that is the mind, of the nation, and there is an entire genre of literature and film based on this shared experience.

[00:19:44] Evacuees' individual experiences ran the whole gamut, that is the whole range, from excellent to terrible. 

[00:19:52] For kids whose host families made them work from dawn to dusk in the fields, the experience was understandably, slightly unpleasant. 

[00:20:02] However, many recalled their evacuation days as moments of pure joy and happiness. 

[00:20:09] They remembered the fun and fear of hopping from one host family to another, the shock of discovering that there was no inside toilet or bathroom, the awe of seeing the first cow, or discovering where milk comes from, and the humbling experience of working on the farm. 

[00:20:29] Now, it is hard, nigh impossible, for there to be such a huge operation without it impacting the lives of the individuals for years to come, and this experience, Operation Pied Piper, reshaped an entire generation of youth. 

[00:20:47] There was a recent study by Birkbeck College, which is part of the University of London, called "Long-term effects of the British evacuation of children during World War 2 on their adult mental health", and this shed some light on the devastating effects on adult mental health due to temporary childhood separation caused by the evacuation. 

[00:21:12] The study revealed that children evacuated when they were between 4 and 6 years old and those who received poor foster care were at greater risk of depression and clinical anxiety and that they would have high levels of self-criticism. 

[00:21:30] Older evacuated children who had received relatively good care were found to be less prone to such mental disorders. 

[00:21:40] All these findings only reinforced the findings of Anna Freud, the daughter of Sigmund Freud, who, in 1941, conducted a study on the psychological impact of evacuation. 

[00:21:54] She concluded that, "separation from their parents is a worse shock for children than a bombing." 

[00:22:02] The effects of Operation Pied Piper weren’t only on the individuals, but on British society as a whole. 

[00:22:10] It heavily disrupted the schooling and education of many young children. 

[00:22:15] It also shone a light on the level of urban poverty that Britain had been suffering, and the extent of economic and social deprivation within British cities.

[00:22:28] During the evacuation, whether you were rich or poor didn’t matter. Working-class children mixed with kids from rich families, and for many it was the first time that they had seen how “the other side” lived.

[00:22:43] The class structure in Britain was dealt a huge blow, paving way for the massive changes the swinging 60s and 70s would bring, moulded by the now grown-up evacuee generation.

[00:22:58] And this was a generation with this huge, shared experience, this shared memory. Almost everyone had been touched in some way, whether that was the children being evacuated, or the children in the countryside whose families had welcomed evacuees

[00:23:17] We can perhaps point to some shared experiences in recent memory that have a similar power, a similar strength, but it’s hard to think of anything that lasted for so long and impacted such a large proportion of the population at such an impressionable age. 

[00:23:37] It brought together urban and rural, rich and poor, and people from all over the UK in a bonding experience of the scale that the country had never experienced before and has not experienced since.

[00:23:52] It certainly wasn't perfect, and undoubtedly for many it caused a great deal of hurt and agony that would last a lifetime, but it was an operation that saved probably thousands of children’s lives, and on that basis alone, it has gone down as one of the most important operations in British 20th century history.

[00:24:17] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Operation Pied Piper, The Evacuation of British Cities in World War II. 

[00:24:26] Of course, there is a huge amount more to talk about on this subject, and we only just scratched the surface. From evacuations of children in mainland Europe through to modern evacuations of warzones, I’m sorry we didn’t have time to discuss it all.

[00:24:44] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:47] Did you know much about the evacuation of British cities? Were cities in your country evacuated during World War Two, and how was that different to Britain?

[00:24:58] Perhaps, if you are one of our older listeners, you might even have been evacuated yourself, or perhaps you remember stories your parents or grandparents told you about this period.

[00:25:10] I would love to know, so please feel free to share your thoughts and memories.

[00:25:15] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:25:24] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:25:30] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]