Operation Pied Piper
In the early hours of 1 September 1939, German troops crossed the border into Poland. At the same time in Britain, thousands of children, in cities all over the country crocodile-marched to the nearest railway station to board trains that would take them to the safety of the countryside. Two days later, war was declared. Operation Pied Piper was the secret code name given to the mass evacuation of over 3 million children.
With the use of archive and actual testimonies from evacuees themselves, Radio 2 recreates this momentous operation with a docudrama which transports the listener back to the first few days of September 1939. Sounds of the cities preparing: buses, trams, steam trains, lines of school children singing The Lambeth Walk and Wish Me Luck, parents crying and waving good-bye. The noises of the countryside: farm animals, birds singing, different accents - all provide a kaleidoscope of sounds to accompany the personal stories.
The plans for the evacuation of thousands and thousands of youngsters from London, and other major cities, were a masterpiece of organization. And it had a profound effect on the children who were uprooted from their homes with their gas-masks, crocodile-marched to stations and dispatched to live with strangers in a 'foreign land'. There are many stories, both sad and happy from that historic event at the outbreak of the Second World War, and this programme touches on just a few of them.
Contributors include Terry Charman, Senior Historian Imperial War Museum; James Roffey Founder of the Evacuees Reunion Association; and the personal stories from evacuees from across the UK.