Civilian Evacuation to Devon in the Second World War
Hess, Susan Jane
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Extensive sources have been reviewed and analysed to piece together for the first time a detailed academic study of civilian evacuation to Devon viewed against the national backdrop. The primary focus of this thesis is the large number of unaccompanied children who were officially evacuated to the County under the auspices of the Government Evacuation Scheme during the Second World War. However, Chapter Six discusses the evacuation of mothers and accompanying children, unofficial (private) evacuees and private school parties. The majority of evacuated children arriving in Devon originated from the London area and southeastern counties. In addition large numbers of children were also evacuated to the County from Bristol and within the County from Plymouth (Devon) during 1941 and briefly from Exeter in May 1942. Each of the three national evacuation waves is considered individually throughout the text as they are quite distinct in complexion, a fact frequently ignored in generalised accounts which tend to focus on reaction to the initial wave. This thesis argues that: 1. lack of regional and local research has resulted in evacuation largely being viewed in generalised and stereotypical terms without due regard for the socioeconomic and geopolitical variance between those areas involved or the particular localised features of the evacuation process 2. the acclimatisation of evacuated children was particularly successful in Devon and drift back less than the national average 3. local evidence supports the argument that contemporary national reports of impoverished, dirty and ill mannered evacuees were frequently exaggerated 4. evacuation was central in accelerating postwar reform in areas of education, child care and welfare The civilian evacuation during World War Two was a remarkable event in the history of modern Britain. Interest in the subject has recently increased but there is enormous scope and need for further research both to broaden our understanding of the nature and impact of evacuation and to test entrenched views. The over-arching aim of this thesis is to contribute to this exploration.
PhD in History