28 JUNE 1940, Page 13

CLEAR FOR ACTION SIR, —The leaflet distributed by the Government this

week emphasises the way in which the civilian populations of Holland and Belgium unwittingly helped the enemy by taking to the roads, flying from their shattered towns, seeking some sort of shelter, and often being machine-gunned or bombed in their vain search. " Stay put," says the leaflet. No question this is the right advice for most of us.

But the Government has also indicated, by making it a " protected area," that they and their military advisers think that a strip about twenty miles wide round the East and South coasts is the most probable battle-ground for our encounter with the sort of " tip and run " landing force which may slip past the Navy. In this area they are already taking special precautions.

I should like one of these special precautions to be the immediate evacuation from that area of all school-children, not only for the sake of the children, but on military grounds. The Health and Education authorities have already worked out the technique ; they would only have to apply it very quickly in the whole 20-mile strip. But now comes the point at which I believe a new technique would have to be adopted.

The problem is this. Some of the most suitable areas for the reception of " protected area " children are North Wales (from which I write), Cumberland and Westmorland, and parts of Yorkshire. Even granted an enemy landing in Eire, these poor mountain districts would be the last that an attacking force dependent on air support would choose.

But because we are mountainous we are thinly populated, so even if. every existing house and public building, however unsuitable, were used, we could not house the thousands that would be involved. But we could give them some sort of temporary shake-down, suitable for six weeks of summer. During those weeks and while the children were being brought down we could, if we could have the help of recruits now in training and of other troops, prepare something better. We have building stone, slates, trees for timber, and a nucleus of skilled local labour. A roof made with unseasoned timber is better than a bomb over a child's head. Where sufficient extra water was available this new accommodation could be grouped round existing buildings, a big house, a church, a chapel, in other cases it might have to be sited chiefly with a view to a natural water supply, one of the main considerations.

The Government has ample powers over any reluctant landlord, while we can feel sure (I speak from experience of my own particular district) that church and chapel authorities (as having powers over what is usually the only large public building) would give every possible help. There are everywhere people like myself and the rest of our local W.V.S. members who now have had months of experience of what we look back to as " normal evacuation." Architects and builders are to be found who know the materials of each district. All these local resources, however, would be powerless without extra labour. But I believe that officers commanding soldiers at present billeted in our areas are actually anxious to find useful jobs for their men.

Talk with many men back from Dunkirk and from France makes me believe that such officers and men would consider clearing as many children as possible out of the districts most likely to be battle-grounds one of the most useful jobs that could possibly be given them.

Certain equipment (such as blankets) extra to that for " normal evacuation " would have to come with the children, and as things are this could be arranged. But in a week or two transport may be too abnormal.

" If the invader comes," says the Government, we must " stay put." Be it so, but before he comes let us clear for action.