Children in the Second World War

History, Literacy and Remembrance

Key Stage Two

Session One

Two - Four Hours


In this session you will learn how the Second World War impacted on children’s lives around the world. Follow these activities to learn about children who were evacuated in Britain and how the war changed children’s lives in other countries.


Tour at the Arboretum


Watch our short video tour and explore The National Memorial To The Evacuation (The British Evacuees Association).

After you have taken your tour, test your knowledge by answering the questions below. 

Now you've watched our tour, test your knowledge by answering the questions below

Test Your Knowledge 1

  1. What are the three places in Britain that the government thought Nazi Germany would attack by air?  a) Cities  b) Villages  c) Factories  d) Farms  e) Docks  f) Shops
  2. Who were the three groups of people the government wanted to move to safety?  a) Vulnerable People  b) Pets  c) Children  d) Pregnant Women  e) Soldiers  f) The King
  3. Can you name two things an evacuee would take with them?
  4. Where was the artist Maurice Blik born?  a) America  b) Amsterdam  c)Belgium  d) Liverpool  e) Norfolk   
  5. The sculpture that Maurice Blik made looks like a group of children waiting for a train or bus. He has put some of their clothes and hands back to front and their suitcases are split or torn. How do you think the children feel?   
  6. 10,000 Jewish children escaped their home countries and came to Britain. What was the name of the mission they came with? a) Niños-transport  b) Kindertransport  c) Les-enfants-transport

The Second World War


The Second World War took place between 1939 and 1945 between two groups of countries. One group was called the Allies and included Britain, France, Poland, the Soviet Union, the United States of America and Commonwealth countries such as pre-partition India and Canada. The other was called the Axis Powers and included Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan.


The Second World War began in Europe on 1 September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. It ended in 1945. In Europe, the war ended on 8 May 1945, when Nazi Germany surrendered on a day known as Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). The war against Japan took place in the Far East and ended three months later on 15 August 1945. This brought an end to the fighting and is known as Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day).


Family Life in the Second World War



Family life was affected by the war. All men aged between 18 and 41 had to join the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force unless they did important jobs such as mining, farming or teaching or were exempt on medical grounds. This was called conscription and meant that many fathers or siblings had to go to war. Meanwhile, many women took up new jobs to help the war effort, such as working in factories or on farms.


There were many other changes as well. Rationing was introduced, meaning that people were only allowed a small amount of certain foods to make sure that the country would not run out of food. In large towns and cities, the lights had to be turned off at night and windows covered to stop any light spilling out. This was called a blackout and was done to protect cities from bombs.

Test your knowledge by answering the questions below.

Test Your Knowledge 2

  1. When did the Second World War begin?
  2. Name two countries that were Allied countries.
  3. As well as Nazi Germany, name two other countries that were Axis Powers.
  4. What date did the Second World War end in Europe? What is this day called?
  5. What day did the fighting end in the Far East? What is this day called?
  6. How old were the men that were called to join the British Armed Forces?
  7. Some men did not have to go to war because the jobs they did were important. Name two of the jobs that were exempt.

© IWM (LN 6194)
Children were given cardboard labels with their names on, before boarding trains and buses to the countryside. Image © IWM (LN 6194)

Children in the Second World War



When the Second World War began in 1939, the British Government was afraid that thousands of people would be killed by German aeroplanes dropping bombs on British cities. So, they organised an evacuation. They moved vulnerable people, children and pregnant women away from cities to safe areas in the countryside. These were known as reception areas, which would not be bombed.


When children were first evacuated, they did not know how long the war would last, or when they would see their families again.


The British evacuation was called ‘Operation Pied Piper’. It began on Friday 1 September 1939. The Government sent parents a list, telling them what they should pack for their children. Not all families could afford all the items on the list.


Evacuation was not compulsory; some families did not send their children away.

Test Your Knowledge 3

  1. What were the British Government worried about being dropped on British cities?
  2. Who were evacuated to safe places?
  3. Do you live in a city or in the countryside? Do you think you live in an area which was evacuated or a reception area (an area where evacuees came to live)?
  4. How do you think children felt when they were being evacuated?
© IWM (D 2587)
Over three million people were evacuated during the Second World War. Image © IWM (D 2587)

Task 1

Vocabulary Mix-and-Match


Look at the sentences below. Some words have been highlighted. What do these words mean? Match the sentences on the left with what they mean on the right.



Task involving matching words with their meanings


Michael Fethney – a life in Australia


Some children were evacuated abroad. The Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) evacuated 2,664 British children from England. The children were sent to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. A few also went to the USA. 


Michael Fethney went to Australia as part of the CORB scheme. He was away for five years, leaving as a young boy of nine and returning a teenager aged 14.


Many of the CORB children found travelling to a new country across the sea in wartime very difficult. They left their homes and were taken to a completely new country with a new way of life.  


When Michael was travelling back home on the ship, he was told about how Britain had changed while he was away. He had not seen his family or his home for five years. Many bombs had been dropped in Britain and people were living with rationing. Life was very different to how he had left it. Nothing could prepare him for his life back with his parents. He was now taller and had his own opinions. It was a shock for his parents as well. As Michael says: “My family all appeared smaller to my 14-year-old eyes, as did ‘home'.” 


Task 2

Creative Writing Activity


Imagine that you are on the ship, returning home with Michael. Describe the journey. What is the journey like? What can you see, smell, touch, taste and hear? How are you and Michael feeling on the journey?

Image of the Memorial to the British Evacuees
Image of a woodland canopy

Session Complete

Well done! You have completed your first Children in the Second World War Session. Begin session two to learn more about the Second World War and the experiences of Children from around Britain and the rest of the World.

Visitor Information

Visitors are advised that the Shot at Dawn Memorial is currently closed as it undergoes a full restoration, the Memorial will be closed until approximetly 21 June. 

Find out more