22 SEPTEMBER 1939, Page 18


[Correspondents are requested to keep their letters as brief as is reasonably possible. Signed letters are given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym, and the latter must be accompanied by the name and address of the author, which will be treated as confidential. —Ed. THE SPECTATOR]


SIR,—Cases of hardship resulting from the evacuation can, as your correspondents state, be multiplied endlessly up and down the country. The intolerable demands made on house- holders in the reception areas are common talk ; only one aspect is scarcely, if ever, mentioned—the effect on the evacuees themselves. What can have been the feelings of children who, on account of their verminous condition, were sent from place to place?

I saw one family of four children, some of whom had been rebilleted three times in three days. They were a dejected, unsavoury little group, and the kind cottager who took them in told me that the eldest girl cried as she explained that they " knew they were dirty, but their mother couldn't help it." She went out scrubbing (other people's floors) and hadn't time to keep them clean. (Shades of Tom in Water Babies, who looked at Ellie in her white bed and knew that he was dirty.)

The working classes have " held the baby " of the Govern- ment Evacuation Scheme. It is not easy to escape from enforced guests in a four-roomed cottage where there are no resources, such as the east wing or the gardener's lodge avail- able. But is it too much to hope that the rest of us have learnt a lesson? At a recent meeting of a housing committee the medical officer of a London borough related that in his experience no family wishes to remain verminous. Their con- dition is almost entirely caused by the state of their dwellings.

When such houses are condemned, and the tenants evicted, they are eager to assist in the disinfecting of furniture and clothes, so that they can make a new, clean beginning in a new home.

Can we not hope for fresh interest in the question of housing, and look for a better, cleaner England as a glorious result of the " Evacuation Outrage "?—Yours faithfully,

SIR,—I should like to endorse the remarks of your corre- spondents on the subject of the evacuation and to thank you for the publicity you are giving to the matter.

In the next village to my own a number of expectant mothers arrived in such a filthy and verminous condition that it was found impossible to accommodate them in ordinary people's houses.

In my own village I have been called upon to deal only with children ; a number of these had verminous heads. But the climax was reached when a child I had billeted with some very nice people was discovered to be suffering from scabies and venereal disease!

Many of the children are insufficiently clad, and the parents seem to imagine the paltry allowance made by the Govern- ment for billeting should include the cost of new clothes, and thus rid them of all responsibility in the matter. It is obviously most unfair that the country labourers—whose wages are much lower than that of town workers—should be expected to bear the brunt of clothing these children.

Those of us who are doing the voluntary work of billeting the evacuees are having a very difficult time, which is being made more so by the bureaucratic methods of local govern- ment officials.—Yours faithfully,


SIR,—Undue stress is, I feel, being laid on the inconvenience suffered by the evacuated children and adults, and insufficient regard is being paid to those who have had to receive them.

In Blackpool, where between fifty and sixty thousand evacuees are now settled, there are general complaints on the following lines. While they do not refer to some of the evacuees, I think they are applicable to the majority.

a. The boarding-house keepers, who depend on visitors for their livelihood, have, in most cases, had to forgo many visi- tors who would pay about 8s. 6d. a day for Board Residence, and instead receive children for whom they receive 8s. 6d. a week, and who are infinitely more trouble and cause a great

deal of damage to furniture and houses which will have to be used for visitors when the war is over.

What will happen in Blackpool and other seaside or holiday resorts when the winter is on us, it is difficult to say, but there will certainly be many cases of hardship and people who would have been financially secure will have to struggle, unnecessarily, to make ends meet.

2. The parents of the evacuated children are not doing sufficient and are very often taking advantage of the circum- stances. They should all be able to supplement the Govern- ment's payment to householders in the Reception Areas and to arrange for the washing and mending of the children's clothes. Instead they visit the children, criticise their new homes, and they often order that certain things should be done for their children. They seem to be under the impres- sion that the Reception Areas have asked for and want their children, which is far from the case.

I know of many instances of parents visiting their children at week-ends, expecting meals for the whole family and to be waited on by their hosts, never offering to pay for their meals, preventing their hosts attending Church, in fact, having a week-end by the sea at little cost and great inconvenience to those who arc providing safe homes for their children, whom they have sent voluntarily to these areas. And, I see from the Press, the railway companies are now considering reducing the price of railway tickets for parents visiting their evacuated children.

Whilst one must express admiration at the way local offi- cials have worked in this scheme, one who has had experience of the personal difficulties of many people in the Reception Areas cannot but feel that the Government has exaggerated the difficulties of the evacuees and their families, and has not paid sufficient attention to those who, in many cases, have had children, dirty, ill-mannered and ailing, almost forced

upon them.—Yours truly, HARRY HEAP. 8 Bideford Avenue, Blackpool.

SIE,—In a daily paper the following appeared with other similar but rather less offensively worded advertisements:

"Lady with lovely home would take young ladies or young gentlemen or couples as paying guests during war, should it come, but only good-class people, as it is a lady's private house, at — " (my italics).

This throws an interesting light on what the advertiser thinks of the spirit of the younger generation and of the standpoint of her class in a national emergency. Unfor- tunately, these advertisements also shed a light on the Government's policy towards the problem of evacuation.—I SIR,—Much has been written and spoken about the Evacuation scheme and its execution. I should like, with your permission, to mention an aspect of the matter which, it seems to me, merits some attention.

The following case came to my notice a few days ago.

A certain family, well enough off to be able to live in a comfortable house in a city suburb and to pay the fees at one of the best-known secondary schools, chose, as they were quite entitled to do, to send their children away under the local evacuation scheme. The children were taken to a small town some thirty miles away and received in a working-man's home, the hostess being efficient in every way but in age nearer to sixty than fifty. She is doing everything for those children—housing them, feeding them well and even washing their clothes. She has to call weekly at the Post Office or the sum of 8s. 6d. per child.

The parents are in a better social position than the hots and are contributing nothing whatever to the support of their children. The mother is enjoying a holiday, has not offered even to undertake the laundry business, while the hostess gives the children whatever care is being spent upon them. 1 he father, a professional man, is in an assured position ; the hoNt

is under warning of dismissal, his trade being one of those acti ersely affected by the war.

I wonder how many cases there may be comparable to this one. Surely the relatively well-to-do might be expected to show some practical, that is financial, interest in the welfare of their children, wherever these happen to be.—I am, Sir,