Four million evacuees had been anticipated, but only 1.5 million actually left. Nevertheless this was a mass migration, which traumatised many, and, once seen, who can forget the images of crocodiles of city children, identified by a luggage label tied to their person, trudging off into the unknown.
'... country folk learned for the first time how the city poor lived.'
The administration of even the third that actually left collapsed, and by January 1940 nearly one million had returned. When the Blitz (from September 1940 onwards) triggered a second, unplanned evacuation, the country became all mixed up, and to a certain extent, country folk learned for the first time how the city poor lived.
Young David Card remembered of his evacuation:
‘We had our little suitcases packed, and our little tabs tied on with string ... We were all given a large brown carrier bag, a tin of condensed milk, a tin of bully beef, a packet of biscuits and what seemed to me an enormous bar of chocolate ... We took off in coaches and eventually arrived in Deal, just round the coast from Dover. We were then parked off with the butcher’s assistant ... [and his] little family in Deal. We were living four in a room, with just a mattress on the floor, no real bed. There were tins baths too, as the houses didn’t have baths, which was not unusual for [the] ... area at that time. We went to the school; it was a tiny one-classroom school, the old village type of school, which was crammed with kids ...’
Jonathan Croall, Don't You Know There's A war On? The People's Voice 1939-45