Town & family scenes – Clacton-on-sea - Evacuation

  • Theme - WW1, WW2 & Military
  • Year - 1940
  • Location - Colchester
  • Filmmaker - Herbert Lyne Smerdon


This film from 1939 is an important record of the evacuations that went on during World War II. The first shots show girls from Clacton High School being evacuated from the town, carrying suitcases and gas masks along the road to the train station. As they board the trains, many children look out of the window and smile for the camera, despite the threat of the war surrounding them. Later sequences show children post-evacuation, playing in safer environments or interacting with their hosts. There are some shots of Clacton town centre, with shops boarded-up at the junction of Station Road and Pier Avenue.

Clacton suffered the first civilian casualties of World War II, after a German plane narrowly avoided hitting a school. There was subsequently a great rush to evacuate local children to safer areas of the country. Operation "Pied Piper" as the procedure was known, officially began on 1 September 1939. The nationwide movement relocated more the 3.5 million people, many of them children.

This valuable footage was recorded by Herbert Lyne Smerdon, a photographer with the East Essex Gazette (formerly the Clacton Times). He and his wife lived with their four children at 120 Dudley Road, Clacton, but had to leave the house, when it was taken over by the army during the war.


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  • Part of my Grandfather's collection. Hand cranked camera in those days. My Uncle and Aunt were evacuated and later my mother (18 in 1940) was sent west to 'keep an eye' on them.By: Charles Gould - 2235 days ago
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