Evacuation was when the British government feared that Hitler’s bombing of major cities would mean the death of thousands of men women and children between the years of 1939 and 1945. It was because of this slaughter that it was decided that many men, women and children would have to be re-housed in the country. During the course of the war, over 33,000 people were re-housed in the Rhondda area alone.
And it is from sources 4 -6 that you can tell what life at home in the city was like for the poorer, working class evacuees.
Source 4, (extracts made on evacuation by the women’s institute) tells us many vivid descriptions of the evacuees that they were hosting at the time. ‘Verminous little children lacking any knowledge of clean habits’ tell us that the children did not have any former experience of washing on a regular basis. Words and phrases such as ‘scabies’, ‘dirty septic sores’ and ‘ ragged little garments’ are all words that back up these points.
‘Many of the mothers and children were bed wetters.’
This line tells us of how traumatised they were after being made to leave their homes. However is this source reliable, these people (the women’s institute) may have been exaggerating how bad the conditions were for them because they hated housing the evacuees. Also it is just from one organisation or group and doesn’t give a fair viewpoint of the times. Conversely, a positive outlook on the source would be that they did have first hand experience of the times. Also, being from the country they would have mostly been very wealthy and when compared with the almost poverty stricken city dwellers it is no surprise that they were stunned by the evacuees lack of personal hygiene.
In addition to this, source 5 backs up the viewpoint of the women’s institute. The first part of this source (part A) is of a women evacuee telling her six year old child that it is a ‘dirty thing’ and that it should ‘go and do it in the corner’ after they had excreted a waste product in the middle of their hosts carpet. This tells of a clear lack of understanding of hygiene, proper manners and country etiquette. Parts B and C of source 5 show us, yet again, the lack of understanding and disbelief of country life.
‘They call this spring mum, and they have one down here every year.’
Tells us of how industrialised the cities in which they live are. For example, London. A 1940’s London would not only have had the infamous smog, which would have made it impossible for any sunlight to get through, but also a highly industrialised skyline. These two accompanying each other would have resulted in them not seeing much of a summer or spring but more of a hot and cold winter, and this is echoed in the source.
Food, especially when rationing was introduced, was not easy to come by for the poor city dwellers and it is therefore not surprising that the children were sometimes told by their parents that they were not allowed any more to eat, however, when they came to the country this all changed.
‘They never tell you that you can’t have no more to eat’
This is because the country folk have an endless supply of home grown fruit and vegetables at their disposal, which would not have had to have been transported, unlike the cities sparse fruit and vegetables. Source 5(c) is one of the only sources that is written in dialect. It is, I believe in cockney. It also shows poor grammar and speech qualities. Instead of saying that ‘you can’t have any more to eat’, the child says ‘you can’t have no more to eat’. So, this is yet another source that shows up their poor education and lack of understanding. The source is completely reliable in that it is a direct quote, however, it is not useful in the way that it is said by children, who sometimes do not engage their brains before speaking in the way that an adult would.
Source 6 completely contradicts its two predecessors as both women speak very highly of their ‘enjoyable’ time with their evacuees. The first part reading that the woman’s
‘My six lads from London have not only made this dreary, lonely war tolerable, but often enjoyable.’
This source shows of the women’s feelings of the boys very well through the words that she has used. Before her boys from London arrived she used the powerful adjective of ‘Dreary’ and ‘Lonely’ but when they were there these adjectives turn happy as words like ‘enjoyable’ are used. However country life did have its downsides for the city folk. This because as their diet and nutrition improved, so, unfortunately did their weight. As described by a middle – class women in the second half of the source.
‘Some children from poor areas have become unrecognisable.’
This was due to the un-relenting supply of food in the country; a resultant problem of this was that the child needed ‘A larger gas Mask’. This was one of the many problems that faced the hosts and evacuees during the war. Nonetheless it is my view that this source disagrees with the other two that preceded as they are being told from the viewpoints of people from different social classes. The women in source 6 are both rich, middle and upper class women and they would have found the whole experience enjoyable as it was no problem to them money wise to house the evacuees. Where as members of the women’s institute would mainly have been poor, working class people for whom it would have been a struggle to keep the children and the bank happy.
Problems for the evacuees and hosts may have been any of the following things; Psychological. Some of the uppity country folk may have prejudged their city evacuees before even getting to know them; these judgements would have been made on the basis of stories and gossip. You could also say that the city people may have had their prejudgements about the city folk.
Language. Although most Welsh speakers can speak English as well, they may have felt uncomfortable having to abolish the use of their language in order to satisfy the city evacuees who have invaded their homeland. This would have caused some minor problems.
The general change of living conditions would have had a big effect on the Evacuees. Moving from a dirty, industrialised city to a clean and pleasant countryside would have been a shock to them.