Child evacuees in World War Two: Why people leave home

Explore what pupils know and think about refugees and kindness, with a speech by a teenage Queen Elizabeth II to evacuees in World War II

Refugees and WWII evacuees
Lesson plan, audio
English, History
Refugees and migration

During the Second World War (1939 to 1945) fears cities and large towns in the UK would be bombed resulted in government evacuation orders. This meant thousands of school children were sent from their homes in urban areas to safety in the countryside where they lived with families they did not know. For some children this even meant being sent to relatives in other countries including Canada, Australia, and the United States of America.

This teaching resource looks at a speech made in 1940 by the current Queen, then a 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth, to children in the UK and overseas. It offers listening, discussion and creative activities looking at child evacuees in World War II and refugees today and explores themes of empathy and kindness.

This resource is suitable for primary school aged students (7 to 11).

Learning objectives

Learners will:

  • consider what they already know and think about refugees
  • develop an understanding of how child evacuees might have felt during World War Two
  • empathise with how refugees today may feel
  • discuss why people have to leave their homes and the kindness they might hope to receive when they arrive somewhere new.


Resource overview

1. Listening activity

Listen to the radio speech and consider the situation for child evacuees in WWII.

2. Discussion: Sympathy and empathy

Discuss the meaning of “true sympathy” and empathise with how people may feel when they have to leave their loved ones.

3. Discussion: Evacuees and refugees

Compare the meanings of the two words.

4. Creative activity

Create a drawing or painting that shows two scenes: leaving danger and finding refuge.

5. Extension activities: What does kindness look like?

  • create a collage of words, phrases and pictures
  • devise a song or rap
  • find examples of kindness that evacuees or refugees received and present them in class or assembly.

Audio: Children’s Hour broadcast

The Queen's Red Cross connection

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the Red Cross' longest serving patrons, with nearly 70 years of association with the monarch. During that time the Queen has shown continued support and interest in the work carried out by the organisation both in the UK and around the world.

The relationship began in 1926 when the organisation's then chairman congratulated the Duke of York on the safe arrival of his daughter, Princess Elizabeth and has continued over the decades throughout the queen's long reign.

In her Diamond Jubilee year, find out more about the Queen's long history with the Red Cross. 

> First aid and fairytales: Red Cross celebrates the Queen's Platinum Jubilee


This resource was written by P J White and produced in May 2012. The audio clip is from The Royal Channel.

The photo shows a group of evacuees from Bristol carrying bags, suitcases and gas masks as they walk off the platform upon arrival at Brent station © IWM (D 2593).

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