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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 colonies.

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.


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