WWI Evacuees: Research Update

on Saturday, 01 March 2014. Posted in Military

Hello, its Jade again!
Its been just over a month since I last wrote my blog and there have been some great, and interesting developments, some as a result of people reading the blog and getting in touch for which I am very grateful! So I thought I had better get in touch and update you all.

I have now been through all but nine of the school admission registers for the whole of Wiltshire - not an easy task I assure you, but being very close to finishing has made me reflect on what has been discovered along the way. I think it is safe to say that some sort of large scale, organised evacuation of young children out of London was occurring during the war.  While there is plenty of evidence to suggest this, it also has opened up new questions such as; why? how? and where? It is also worth noting that although it looks like this must have been organized on a large scale, it is equally clear that it was not anything to do with the government, or local authorities. This is clear from the lack of information available about the evacuees in any official records.

The aim of this placement was to engage with "history in the public space", I think after the last month this has definitely been achieved. Television programs like Jeremy Paxman's WW1 series on BBC ONE has meant that there is a little more interest in research projects like mine, including from BBC Radio Wiltshire, who kindly did an interview after reading the previous blog.

I have not only been using the school admission registers but also looking in the school log books - some of which have been useful, and some that mention little. For example, Nettleton School received many children from Olban Street, in Poplar, London, on the same day. They all stayed for the same number of days and the only record made in the log book is when they left (see picture). Local newspapers were also hoped to bring some help but I have found nothing on the removal of children from London, just the air raids themselves!

It seemed unlikely that all of this movement was just a coincidence, and thankfully this was proved right as we were contacted by someone who read my last blog and gave us a lead. It was exciting to hear that organised mass evacuation, offering children some respite from the effects of war, was being arranged by a charity now known as the Children's Country Holiday Fund. After getting in touch they informed me that there was over 100,000 evacuations out of London between 1914-1918, for three months at a time! This is a scale I hadn't even contemplated. However, not all the children that I have found fit into the “3 months” holiday, some children come for a few days, others a few months and some for a couple of years! This is a clear indicator that there is more information needed. There must have been similar organizations/charities doing similar work. 

The plan now is to finish the admission registers, and log books. Also I will be contacting archive services in London that hold the charity records for the evacuations and school admissions seeing what exciting news that uncovers! Although, the project has come so far since I began in late October, there are still many things unexplained. If you have any ideas or family stories, please get in touch, we would love to hear from you!

Jade Wellesley
Work Placement Volunteer


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