Children in War-time

For many children the impact of the war began to be felt immediately, with precautionary evacuations of children from large cities taking place in early September 1939. Further waves of evacuations took place when the Blitz bombings and later the V1 and V2 bomb raids began to generate real danger. Film of Malton shows evacuated children arriving in this rural Yorkshire town from the city of Hull. The children are seen at the railway station, settling into a new family home, taking part in school games and enjoying a Christmas party put on for these young evacuees.

For those children who did not move to rural areas and where the threat of bombing continued, air raid drills were practiced both at school and at home. Film of Knoll School in Hove shows normal activities at the school until the siren is heard and the children, with their teachers, march from the classrooms to the shelter. Other children at the school are shown putting on their gas masks in class and carrying on with their lesson.

At home, children also had to practice new procedures. In Pool, Dorset, the children of the Sheppard family are seen playing with a dolls house and then trying on gas masks whilst the children’s teddy bear also wears a mask and ARP-style helmet.

Children were encouraged by their families and schools to find fun and novelty in many of the new war-time measures, such as wearing gas masks, 'digging for victory' - growing vegetables in the garden, putting up blackout blinds and trying out the shelters. In film from the Gowlland family of Surrey , toddler Rosemary is filmed helping with black-out boards and visiting the local shelter with her gas mask box over her shoulder. In Yorkshire, the Hickling family children pose for the camera and show how they put on their gas masks, the older sister helping the younger one to fasten the straps. In the South West, the Parriss family children appear to enjoy growing vegetables as part of the new Dig for Victory campaign and show another practical use for their gas masks: wearing them whilst tending to a bonfire. At Charminster Mixed School in Bournemouth, the girls demonstrate their sewing abilities, playing their part in the government’s ‘make-do and mend’ initiative.

The war at home also brought new dangers for children. The film As Easy as A-B-C (1946) shows how the introduction of road safety measures for children became an even greater necessity during the war-time black-out.

For many children though, certain activities continued almost untouched by the war. Christmas celebrations, outings and entertainment carried on as much as possible. In Birmingham, the Willson family can be seen enjoying a Christmas day party and in the film Holidays at Home (1944), the children of Gateshead are shown being treated to a Punch and Judy show.