The Overseas Children's Scheme took children from Britain to various Commonwealth countries so that they could escape the German bombing during World War Two. It was administered by the Overseas Children's Reception Committee.
Geoffrey Shakespeare, the British Secretary of the Dominions Office introduced the Overseas Children's Scheme in 1940. In order to win the British War cabinet's approval he told them that many wealthy people had already sent their children away and that he wanted to give poor people the opportunity to do the same. He also suggested that it would mean fewer people in Britain to feed.
Shakespeare envisaged sending many thousands of children overseas but in the end only 3000 went, 577 of them to Australia. In 1940, shortly after the scheme began, the Germans torpedoed two ships on the way to Canada. Seventy-seven children died. The British government put an immediate stop to the scheme.
A total of twenty-five children came to Tasmania. All arrived in October 1940. In 1944, according to the Annual Report of the Social Services Department, eight children had found jobs and one was in the Australian Imperial Forces. Those still at school all achieved marks above average.
The children who did arrive in Australia received more assistance than the child migrants who came after the war. Although most of them returned to Britain, some stayed. Others migrated back to Australia after their return home.
Sources used to compile this entry: Social Services and Children of the State Department: Report for the year ended 1943-44, Social Services and Children of the State Department, Hobart, 1944.
Prepared by: Caroline Evans
Created: 3 March 2014, Last modified: 13 February 2019