The Waifs and Strays Story

The Second World War

The Second World War had a much greater impact on the Society than the first. Thirty of its then 106 homes were evacuated to safer locations away from potential targets of enemy attack. With war having looked increasingly likely over the previous year, the plans for the evacuation were well prepared. For homes located in rural areas, the disruption was less severe, such as sleeping quarters being moved to the ground floor. Rationing severely restricted the supply of foods such as meat, eggs and cheese. To counter such shortages, homes often received parcels from America, Australia and Canada containing items such as jam, and dried milk and eggs.

One casualty of the German air raids was the Edward Nicholl Home for Babies in Cardiff which was hit by an incendiary bomb on February 26th, 1941. Fortunately, the children and staff were safe inside the home's air-raid shelter. After several near misses, the Society's offices in Kennington were moved out to St Michael's, Joel Street, Eastcote in Middlesex, where they stayed for the rest of the war.

Not long after the start of the war, the Society realised that children under five presented a particular problem as they required much greater attention than older children and so were much more difficult to place as evacuees. Accordingly a number of 'War Nurseries' began to be established, the first in February 1940 at Dallington in Northamptonshire. By the end of 1940, thirty War Nurseries had been set up, housing over a thousand babies and young children; two years later the number of War Nurseries had reached 98.