A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog on the torpedoing of passenger ship SS Arandora Star on 2 July 1940. Today, I turn my attention to a similar tragedy – but this time the victims were mainly child evacuees from the UK, looking forward to a safer existence in Canada, away from the danger of bombs, air attacks and invasion at home.
They were just some of the 2,664 children who were evacuated from Britain in 1940 to embark on new lives in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The scheme which transported them was a government sponsored scheme known as the CORB Scheme (Children of the Overseas Reception Board). It was not set up until June 1940, a few years after private schemes had evacuated some 14,000 children from Britain to new lives overseas as war neared.
Evacuating children overseas
It was a unique period in British history. In May 1940 the threat to the UK from German air attacks grew and the possibility of invasion heightened, leading to spontaneous offers of hospitality and refuge for British children from overseas governments. These began with Canada on 31 May, where the government forwarded offers from private households to the UK government. In a few days similar offers were received from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. To coordinate the British response to these offers, CORB was established. Its terms of reference were: ‘To consider offers from overseas to house and care for children, whether accompanied, from the European war zone, residing in Great Britain, including children orphaned by the war and to make recommendations thereon’.