How to look for records of... Evacuees
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
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This short guide will help you to research records of children evacuated during the Second World War. Most of the records at The National Archives that relate to evacuation are central government policy files.
What do I need to know before I start?
Finding records from the Second World War is complicated because no central government files were kept (no official records were created during the First World War as evacuations were arranged individually by families).
Evacuation plans had been prepared well before the outbreak of the Second World War, and an evacuation policy was soon established by the government. Small scale evacuations of women and children took place at the height of the Munich Crisis in September 1938, but the major evacuation began in September 1939.
The government had planned to evacuate about 3,500,000 people but in fact only 1,500,000 made use of the official scheme. Almost all had been evacuated to the reception areas by the evening of 3 September, a few hours after the official declaration of war.
It may help you with your research if you can find out:
- the name of the evacuee’s school
- where they were evacuated from and to (see the Appendix at the foot of this guide for a list of evacuation areas)
- when they were evacuated
Search the 1939 Register for England and Wales at Findmypast.co.uk (£) for evacuees and their helpers – search for ‘evacuee’ in the Occupation field. The mass evacuation of children and other vulnerable people took place in early September 1939, before National Registration on 29 September that year. As a result, many evacuees appear in the register.
Individual records will only be open if the person is now deceased, but if the evacuee is still alive they can request a transcript of their own record. See our research guide on the 1939 Register for more information.
There are no lists or registers of evacuees available online.
Records available only at The National Archives in Kew
The National Archives does not hold any evacuee records for individuals.
Search Discovery, our catalogue, for files relating to evacuation policy. Restrict your search to relevant government departments such as Cabinet Office (CAB), Ministry of Education (ED), Ministry of Health (MH), Ministry of Information (INF), Registrar General (RG) and Home Office (HO).
Records in other archives and organisations
Local archives are the best places to find out about individuals who were evacuated. For example, they might have records from the schools that were evacuated or the schools that the evacuated children attended while in their new homes.
The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.
Local authorities may have records relating to the arrangements for children being evacuated to their area.
Second World War Experience Centre
Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
R Samways, ‘We think you ought to go – the evacuation of London’s children’ (London Metropolitan Archives, 1995)
Mike Brown, ‘A child’s war: growing up on the Home Front 1939–1945’ (Stroud, 2000)
Stewart Ross, ‘Evacuation’ (London, c.2002)
The Imperial War Museum, ‘The schools in wartime’ (London, 1995)
Appendix: designated evacuation, reception and neutral areas
In 1939 the Government Evacuation Scheme listed places in England and Wales that were designated as evacuation areas, from which young children and vulnerable people were to be removed to safer locations. In most cases this meant removals from the most densely-populated areas, not the whole district. Others districts were classified as neutral areas, and any places not on the evacuation or neutral lists were scheduled as reception areas.
The following were designated evacuation areas:
|County||Designated evacuation areas|
|Cheshire||Birkenhead and Wallasey County Boroughs, Runcorn Urban and Rural Districts|
|Derbyshire||Derby County Borough|
|Durham||Gateshead, South Shields, Sunderland and West Hartlepool County Boroughs, Hartlepool and Jarrow Municipal Boroughs, Felling, Hebburn and Whickham Urban Districts|
|Essex||East Ham and West Ham County Boroughs, Barking, Chingford, Dagenham, Ilford, Leyton, Walthamstow and Wanstead & Woodford Municipal Boroughs, Hornchurch, Thurrock and Waltham Holy Cross Urban Districts|
|Hampshire||Southampton and Portsmouth County Boroughs, Gosport Municipal Borough|
|Kent||Bexley, Chatham, Dartford, Erith, Gillingham, Gravesend and Rochester Municipal Boroughs, Crayford, Northfleet and Swanscombe Urban Districts|
|Lancashire||Bootle, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford County Boroughs, Crosby, Stretford and Widnes Municipal Boroughs, Litherland Urban District, Warrington and Whiston Rural Districts|
|Lincolnshire||Grimsby County Borough, Cleethorpes Municipal Borough|
|London||All Metropolitan Boroughs, Cities of London and Westminster|
|Middlesex||Acton, Brentford & Chiswick, Ealing, Edmonton, Hornsey, Tottenham, Willesden and Wood Green Municipal Boroughs, Enfield Urban District|
|Northumberland||Newcastle-on-Tyne and Tynemouth County Boroughs, Wallsend Municipal Borough|
|Nottinghamshire||Nottingham County Borough|
|Staffordshire||Smethwick, Walsall and West Bromwich County Boroughs|
|Surrey||Croydon County Borough, Barnes, Mitcham and Wimbledon Municipal Boroughs, Merton & Morden Urban District|
|Warwickshire||Birmingham and Coventry County Boroughs|
|Worcestershire||Oldbury Municipal Borough|
|Yorkshire||Bradford, Kingston-upon-Hull, Leeds, Middlesbrough, Rotherham and Sheffield County Boroughs|
Most counties containing evacuation areas also contained a mixture of neutral and reception areas; London was the only county which had no reception areas at all.
The following were reception areas in England:
|Cumberland||Dorset||Isle of Ely||Herefordshire|
|The Soke of Peterborough||Rutland||Shropshire||Suffolk|
|Sussex||Westmorland||Isle of Wight||Wiltshire|
*Holland and Kesteven divisions
The following were reception areas in Wales:
The following counties were reception areas, with the exception of the neutral areas listed in the table:
|County||Neutral areas within the county|
|Cornwall||Saltash County Borough, Torpoint Urban District|
|Devon||Plymouth County Borough|
|Gloucestershire||Bristol County Borough, Kingswood and Mangotsfield Urban Districts|
|Hertfordshire||Watford Municipal Borough, Barnet, Bushey Cheshunt and East Barnet Urban Districts, Barnet Rural District|
|Leicestershire||Leicester County Borough|
|Norfolk||Norwich and Great Yarmouth County Boroughs|
|Somerset||Portishead Urban District|
|Glamorgan||Cardiff and Swansea County Boroughs, Neath and Port Talbot Urban Districts, Barry, Bridgend and Penarth Municipal Boroughs|
|Monmouthshire||Newport County Borough|
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