The outbreak of war in 1939 put people living and working in various
British colonies at risk. This was especially so after Japan entered
the war in December 1941 and threatened to invade countries such
as Malaya and Hong Kong. In order to protect these people, the British
government decided to evacuate many of its officials from several
Evacuation started in 1940. The first people to be evacuated were
the wives and children of British officials serving in the colonies.
The officials themselves were left behind so that they could continue
to run the colony and were not evacuated until the country was threatened
with immediate invasion. In total, the British government estimated
that by 1942 over 2,000 people had been evacuated from Hong Kong
and over 9,000 from Malaya.
Very few of the evacuees from the Colonies were sent to Britain.
Most were sent to other nearby Colonies and Dominions such as Australia,
New Zealand, India and South Africa. It was thought that this was
much safer than transporting the evacuees back to Britain and allowed
the ships to be used to move troops.