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Air Raids and Evacuation
From the very first day of the war the government moved about 1.5 million women and children from areas at high risk of bombing to safer areas. Most people did not want to be moved and some of the first wave of people returned home. Once the blitz started the policy was restored. The evacuees (or wee vaccies as they were often called in Scotland ) came from big cities like Aberdeen, industrial areas like Glasgow and cities with ports such as Edinburgh. They were sent to the countryside, some with their mother, some on their own, to live with families there. The whole experience could be difficult and evacuees were sent to very different houses or environments. Some were allocated to live in big houses or farms; others lived with their school friends or teachers. Some children and their teachers were sent to evacuation camps, such as the Broomlee camp at West Linton and the Middleton camp near Peebles.
‘Ah went to Midlem, just five miles outside Selkirk and ah remember going by train and ah remember havin' a label on me coat, me tinny and me gas mask and a wee case. We arrived oh I don't know how long it took and we all went into the village hall, where presumably everybody was chosen. I was too young to be bothered by that ‘cos I was billeted with a family who lived in the next stair and we were billeted in the manse. This poor housekeeper who didn't have much experience of children was landed with a woman and five children just like that. I don't know where
the minister was, I presume he was a padre in the army or one of the forces. We weren't there for very long but we certainly went to school. I remember going to school and the school was just one room. So there was everybody from five to secondary school age in the one room and three divisions. I was at the top of the infants.’
‘It seemed for ever to me but it couldn't have been very long 'cos ma father came down and took me away 'cos it was a phoney war, nothin' was happening.’
‘The news was coming over the radio as the first sirens were sounded and most people ran out into the street but that didn't really come to anything. Then we had a year of preparation. We were grateful for that year, otherwise we were so unready.’
However, when the Blitz began in 1940 there was a new wave of evacuation, and the same happened again in 1944 when the Germans used V1 flying bombs and V2 missiles to bomb Britain.
The evacuation of children also highlighted the problems of poverty and malnourishment in inner city populations. The findings led to increased food provision for children as part of their rations with more milk and better school meals.
As well as bringing bad news to people the radio provided great entertainment. Many programmes were designed to improve morale but others were specifically produced for children.
‘Dae ye mind of Dick Barton Special Agent, quarter tae seven every night?’