The Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) was a British government sponsored organisation. The CORB evacuated 2,664 British children from England, so that they would escape the imminent threat of German invasion and the risk of enemy bombing in World War II. This was during a critical period in British history, between July and September 1940, when the Battle of Britain was raging, and German invasion forces were being amassed across the English Channel.
The children were sent mainly to the four Dominion countries, Canada 1,532 (in nine parties), Australia 577 (three parties), New Zealand 202 (two parties), and South Africa 353 (two parties), but also some to the USA. In the first few months over 211,000 children were registered with the scheme. A further 24,000 children had been approved for sailing in that time and over 1,000 volunteer escorts, including doctors and nurses, enrolled. It was planned as a temporary exile for the children, to return home to their families when conditions permitted.
Even before the Second World War began in September 1939, the British government had prepared for the evacuation of over a million vulnerable people, mainly children, from the towns and cities to safe areas in the countryside away from the risk of enemy bombing. It was widely believed that up to four million people could be killed by enemy attacks on British towns and cities.
When war did eventually break out, the question of sending British children to Commonwealth countries was brought up in Parliament. It was initially rejected on the grounds of creating panic or spreading defeatism. Instead the government decided that the evacuation to rural areas of Britain should continue as it was felt that this was adequate.
They went either to relatives or friends or left as part of private schemes, run by businesses such as Hoover and Kodak, who would evacuate the children of their British employees. At the beginning of the War America was neutral, and had strict immigration laws. This presented a serious obstacle to the U.S.A. accepting any significant number of British refugees.
Initially these British evacuations to America were a private undertaking and not a British Government sponsored or aided evacuation, but this changed later (see below).
In a related American activity, the quasi-governmental "U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children" (USCOM) was established in June 1940. Its purpose, was to try to save mainly Jewish refugee children who came from Continental Europe (as contrasted with those of the CORB from Great Britain), and to evacuate them to America. Images of German bombing raids and European refugees had a major impact on American opinion and this increased when the Germans began bombing the UK. America was neutral until December 1941, which meant that USCOM was still able to operate in Vichy France after May 1940. On the ground in France, the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) (the Quakers - see History of the Quakers) worked with the OSE to select children. In a complicated process, several hundred children made it to the United States, though the rescue of many more was ultimately thwarted by the Nazi occupation of southern France. The organisation was strongly supported by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Other organisations and individuals also worked to save Jewish children and send them to the United States.
In 1941 Geoffrey Shakespeare, British Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, announced that a total of 838 children had been sent under the auspices of the American Committee for the Evacuation of European Children, with the collaboration of the Children’s Overseas Reception Board.
On 10 May 1940, the Germans started their second blitzkrieg that overran the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, and threatened France. Neville Chamberlain, resigned immediately as Prime Minister, and Winston Churchill was appointed to head a coalition government. Shortly afterwards the Germans initiated their assault on France, quickly overrunning the northern part of the country and forcing the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk between 27 May and 4 June.
With the fall of France imminent, the children's evacuation scheme was again presented in the British Parliament, and this time approved.
In Churchill’s newly formed War Cabinet on 17 June, Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs Geoffrey Shakespeare was tasked with implementing the evacuation programme. The same day, negotiations opened with the travel agency Thomas Cook & Son, for the new department to be housed in their London Head Office at 45 Berkeley Street. The British Government would meet the cost of the voyages with contributions taken from parents on a sliding scale, involving a means test.
Although the British Government was now involved, and this scheme was sanctioned by the Cabinet, Churchill and some others were not personally keen on the idea. Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI, had made her views clear at the outbreak of war. There was some suggestion that the Queen and her daughters should be evacuated to North America or Canada. To this the Queen replied: 'The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave.' Throughout the Second World War the Queen and her children shared the dangers and difficulties of the rest of the nation.
The new organisation and staff were quickly assembled and the scheme launched. Applications for children would be made through schools throughout the country. They would travel alone and be accompanied by selected teachers or escorts at a ratio of one to every 15 children, in addition to nurses and doctors. They would travel to the port of embarkation and be accommodated in a hostel, where final medical checks were made. In order to embark rapidly; the usual formalities were dispensed with, there would be no passports. Each child was given a luggage label with its C.O.R.B. number and as each child embarked they were given an identity disc, also with its C.O.R.B. number.
At its height the C.O.R.B. employed some 620 staff.
Within two weeks of each other, two ships carrying CORB children ‘Sea Evacuees’ as they were known, were torpedoed by German U-boats.
The first was the Holland America Line's SS Volendam, whose passengers included 320 children bound for Halifax and New York. She left Liverpool on 29 August with convoy OB 205, consisting of 32 other ships, and including RMS Rangitata, carrying 113 evacuee children bound for Wellington, New Zealand. On 30 August 1940 at about 11.00pm, the convoy was attacked by U-60, firing two torpedoes that hit No. 1 hold and damaged and caused flooding in No.2 hold. The passengers and crew abandoned ship and were rescued by British merchantmen in the convoy, including the Bassethound, the tanker Valldemosa and the Norwegian Olaf Fostenes, together with the British destroyer HMS Sabre. They were taken to Greenock and other west coast ports in Scotland. All 320 children were rescued, the only casualty was the ship's purser who was drowned. The Volendam did not sink, and was subsequently taken in tow to Scotland for repairs. When she was docked a second unexploded torpedo was found embedded in the bow, if it had exploded she would have probably sunk.
All but two of the 320 children returned to their families after the attack on the SS Volendam. Twelve-year old Patricia Allen of Liverpool and ten-year old Michael Brooker of Kent, returned to find that their homes had been badly damaged in the Luftwaffe raids and their families were living in shelters. The two were labeled as "priority candidates" and sent back to the program to await the next available voyage.
The second incident, which led to the cancellation of the program, occurred 17 September 1940, when the evacuation ship SS City of Benares (Ellerman Lines) carrying 90 children bound for homes in Canada, was torpedoed and sunk. Patricia Allen and Michael Brooker were on board. She had left Liverpool on 13 September for Quebec and Montreal. She was in convoy OB 213 with 19 other ships and was 253 miles west-southwest of Rockall, with the Atlantic weather getting worse and the ship sailing slowly. City of Benares was the flagship of the Convoy Commodore, and was leading the convoy. At around 11.45pm she was attacked by U-48 with two torpedoes but they missed. A second torpedo attack just after midnight hit the ship. She was abandoned and sank within 30 minutes. The British destroyer HMS Hurricane picked up 105 survivors and landed them at Greenock. 42 survivors were left adrift in a lifeboat for eight days, until being picked up by HMS Anthony and also landed at Greenock. The ship's master, the commodore, three staff members, 121 crew members and 134 passengers were lost. 77 of the 90 CORB children died in the sinking, including Patricia Allen and Michael Brooker. This event brought the evacuation programme to a halt.
The sinking of the City of Benares caused outrage when it was reported on 23 September 1940. The British government protested that children should not have been innocent victims of war. The Americans called it a ‘dastardly act’. The Germans defended the U-boat attack, considering the ship a legitimate military target, and insisted that the British government was to blame for allowing children to travel on such ships in a war zone. The sinking was a public relations disaster for both the CORB programme and the Admiralty. The British public seemed more enraged at the Admiralty than at the Germans. The fact that the escorts were detached, City of Benares was at the head of the convoy, and the convoy was not taking any evasive action all featured prominently in the subsequent inquiry.
Liverpool was the principal port used for evacuation for the North Atlantic routes to Canada and America. Gourock and Greenock in Scotland were also used. Between 21 July and 20 September 1940, 16 voyages were made carrying 2,664 CORB children. In addition there were also privately sponsored voyages. The programme itself was very limited in size; nineteen ships set sail with 3,127 children, the vast majority of whom made it to their temporary foster homes in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States.
The Right Honourable Lord Snell (Chairman), C.B.E., LL.D.Harry Snell, 1st Baron Snell.
Miss Florence Horsbrugh, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health.
Mr. James Chuter Ede, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary, Board of Education.
Mr. J. Westwood, M.P., Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Scotland.
Miss Ellen Wilkinson, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Pensions.
Mr. E. R. Appleton, Organizer of Empire Youth movements.
Major Cyril Bavin, O.B.E., Y.M.C.A.
Reverend John Bennett, Catholic Council of British Overseas Settlement.
The Countess of Bessborough, Chairman of Council, Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women.
Miss, Grace Browning, Girl Guide's Association.
Mr. Laurence Cadbury, O.B.E., M.A., Chairman, Cadbury Brothers, Limited, an authority on school and welfare problems.
Lieut.-Colonel Culshaw, Salvation Army.
Miss Doggett, O.B.E., League of Empire.
Miss Ellen Evans, Principal, The Glamorgan Training College: also appointed with special reference to Wales.
Captain G. F. Gracey, Save the Children's Fund.
Mr. Gordon Green, Fairbridge Farm School.
Mr. W. A. F. Hepburn, O.B.E., M.C., LL.D., Director of Education for Ayrshire, also appointed with special reference to Scotland.
Reverend S. W. Hughes, Free Church Council.
Reverend Canon H. E. Hyde, Church of England Council for Empire Settlement.
Miss M. F. Jobson, J.P., Member of Fife Education Authority and County Council; also appointed with special reference to Scotland.
Miss E. A. Jones, M.A., Headmistresses' Association.
Mr. P. J. Kirkpatrick, Dr. Barnardo's Homes (Thomas John Barnardo).
Mr. Harold Legat, Boy Scouts' Association (The Scout Association).
The Right Honourable Sir Ronald Lindsay, G.C.B., G.C.M.G., sometime His Majesty's Ambassador to Washington.
Mr. W. A. Markham, M.A., Member of Executive National Children's Home and Orphanage.
Mrs. Norman, Vice-Chairman, Women's Voluntary Services.
Mrs. E. Parker, Ex-President, National Union of Teachers.
Dr. Donald Paterson, M.D., F.R.C.P., Physician, Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Miss Gladys Pott, C.B.E., ex-Chairman of Executive of Society for Overseas Settlement of British Women.
Mr. Brendan Quin, 1820 Memorial Settlement.
Sir William Reardon Smith, Baronet, an authority on shipping; also appointed with special reference to Wales.
Miss Edith Thompson, C.B.E., Chairman of Executive, Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women.
A Scottish Advisory Council for CORB was also appointed, which met at 27, St. Andrew's Square, Edinburgh 2.
The Right Honourable the Lord Provost of Glasgow, P. J. Dollan, Esq., (Chairman).
Mr. Joseph Westwood, M.P., Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. (also attended London HQ meetings)
Mr. A. L. Fletcher, B.A., former Director of Education for the County of Midlothian.
Miss Mary Tweedie, former Headmistress of the Edinburgh Ladies' College (The Mary Erskine School).
Mrs. McNab Shaw, a member of the Ayr County Council.
Miss Margaret Jobson, J.P., a member of the Fife County Council, and Fife Education Authority, (also attended London HQ meetings).
Mr. W. A. F. Hepburn, O.B.E., M.C., LL.D., Director of Education for Ayrshire, (also attended London HQ meetings).
A representative of the Quarrier's Homes, Bridge of Weir, who was appointed.
After the disaster of the City of Benares British public opinion was opposed to the continuation of overseas evacuation, fearing further tragedies. Winston Churchill had been opposed to the scheme, so the government announced the cancellation of the CORB program. However, private evacuation efforts continued into late 1941. By September 1940 the Royal Air Force had achieved mastery over the German Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and the threat of an imminent German invasion (Operation Sea Lion) had abated.
Although the evacuation scheme had ceased in September 1940, CORB remained active. It was only disbanded, along with the advisory councils, in 1944, by which point the perceived German military threat had diminished.
The German captain of U-48, Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Bleichrodt survived the war, and was held and tried by the Allies on war crimes charges concerning the sinking of the City of Benares. He was accused of sinking the ship with the full knowledge that it had been transporting evacuees. He reaffirmed the German position that there was no way that he or the crew of the submarine could have known who was on board. It was upheld and he was acquitted. However, Bleichrodt refused to apologise to the survivors, despite several crew members of U-48, including the radio operator, expressing their shock and regret once the facts became known.
Corb or CORB may refer to:
Figures in Irish mythology and legendary history:
Corb (mythology), a Fomorian
Mug Corb, sometimes called Mac Corb, a High King
Fer Corb, a High King, son of Mug CorbOthers:
Corb (river), a river in Catalonia, Spain
Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB), a British child-welfare organisation active in 1940
Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans, a Canadian country music band, formerly known as the Corb Lund Band
Morty Corb (1917–1996), an American jazz double-bassistCyril Bavin
Cyril Bavin OBE (1878 – 20 February 1956) was a New Zealand-born Australian Methodist minister and missionary to Fiji who became General Secretary to the YMCA Migration Department and Honorary Secretary of the Migration Bureau of the Overseas League based in London. He was an advocate of mass migration from Britain to Canada, Australia and New Zealand both as a way to alleviate poverty in the mother country and as a means of building up the economy of these countries.Geoffrey Shakespeare
Sir Geoffrey Hithersay Shakespeare, 1st Baronet (23 September 1893 – 8 September 1980) was a British Liberal Party politician.George Gibson (trade unionist)
George Gibson CH (3 April 1885 – 4 February 1953) was a British mental hospital attendant, trade unionist and public servant who was General Secretary of the National Asylum Workers' Union, later renamed the Mental Hospital and Institutional Workers' Union, from 1913 to 1947, then of the Confederation of Health Service Employees, into which the previous union merged, from 1947 to 1948. He was ruined through his largely innocent association with the fraudster Sidney Stanley, which was exposed by the Lynskey Tribunal in 1948.
Gibson was born in Calton, a suburb of Glasgow, the son of Irish-born Johnston Gibson, a drysalter (maker of vinegar and castor oil) who later successively owned a fish and chip shop, a fish shop and a newsagent. Gibson's mother, Mary, was Scottish. Although he was a good scholar, Gibson left school at the age of eleven and held a variety of jobs before moving to England in 1910 to become an attendant at Winwick Asylum in Warrington.
On 10 July 1910 he became one of the co-founders of the National Asylum Workers' Union and was elected its first Secretary. He became Vice-President in 1911 and Assistant Organising Secretary in 1912. In 1913 he became full-time General Secretary. The union was renamed the Mental Hospital and Institutional Workers' Union in 1930 and amalgamated with others to form the Confederation of Health Service Employees (COHSE) in 1947. Gibson remained General Secretary throughout these changes, but resigned in 1948. He was elected to the General Council of the Trades Union Congress in 1928 and remained a member until his retirement in 1948. He chaired the General Council and was President of the TUC from 1940 to 1941.
Gibson enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1915 and was commissioned in 1917. He was demobbed in 1919 as a substantive Lieutenant, but as he was commanding a battery he was probably acting in a higher rank. He had been twice mentioned in despatches, and was gassed, which left him a semi-asthmatic for the rest of his life.
From 1940 to 1941 Gibson served as a full-time Director of the Children's Overseas Reception Board, responsible for evacuating British children overseas. In 1941 he visited both Sweden and the United States on official missions. He also served in many other positions during and after the war, including as Vice-Chairman of the National Savings Committee (1939–1949), a director of the Bank of England (1946–1949), Chairman of the North West Regional Board for Industry, Chairman of the North Western Electricity Board and Chairman of the BBC General Council. In 1946 he was appointed Companion of Honour (CH).
In 1949 the Lynskey Tribunal found that Gibson had used his official influence to assist Sidney Stanley to set up a business in expectation of personal gain. The subsequent scandal compelled Gibson to resign from all official posts, although he continued to deny all the allegations.
At some time before the First World War Gibson married Ellen Crossfield, the daughter of a Manchester hotelier, but she was killed in a tram accident in Blackpool. He later married Eva Crabtree, whose first husband had been killed in action in 1917. He had one daughter with Ellen and a further five children with Eva.HMS Sabre (H18)
HMS Sabre was an Admiralty S-class destroyer of the Royal Navy launched in September 1918 at the close of World War I. She was built in Scotland by Alex Stephens and completed by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Govan. Commissioned for Fleet service in 1919, she was the first Royal Navy ship to carry this name.
After the war new destroyer designs were introduced, and many S-class destroyers were scrapped. By the late 1930s Sabre had been de-militarised for use as a target ship. With the outbreak of World War II, she was returned to service in 1939 despite her age and unsuitability for deployment in the Atlantic Ocean.MS Batory
M.S. Batory was an ocean liner of the Polish merchant fleet, named after Stefan Batory, the famous sixteenth-century king of Poland. She was the sister ship of the MS Piłsudski.
The liner survived World War II and became known as a "Lucky Ship" due to her wartime successes. She took part in many military actions, including evacuation of the French-Polish-British corps from Narvik (1940), evacuation of allied troops from St. Nazaire and St. Jean de Luz (1940), invasion of Algier and Sicily (1942), military voyages to India (1943), six months services as a troop carrier from Egypt to Italy (1943), and the invasion of southern France.During many years of service, Batory carried out 222 round trips across the oceans, first on the New York City run, later the India Line and finally the Canadian Line, carrying over 270,000 passengers altogether. She also performed about 75 cruises, tourist trips, and transportation of children to Poland for summer holidays with over 30,000 passengers taking part. During her wartime service of over six years, she carried about 120,000 soldiers. She visited about 150 ports in all parts of the globe.Following her services for the country, she became the pride of the Polish Ocean Lines and the Polish navy.Maggie Morris
Maggie Morris Smolensky (born Margaret Glenesk Beal, December 10, 1925; died September 4, 2014) was a Canadian radio and television personality of the 1960s best known as a panellist on the CBC Television show Flashback and as one of the first women on the CBC English language announce staff.Marjorie Maxse
Dame Sarah Algeria Marjorie Maxse, DBE, better known as Marjorie Maxse (26 October 1891 – 3 May 1975), was a political organiser and the first female chief organization officer of the Conservative Party.Maxse was the daughter of Ernest George Berkeley Maxse (18 November 1863 – 13 March 1943) and Sarah Alice Nottage-Miller (died 25 May 1908). In 1940 Maxse was appointed director of the Children's Overseas Reception Board and vice-chair of the Women's Voluntary Services for Civil Defence (WVS). However, she was also chief of staff for Section D (the "D" stood for destruction) of MI6. Guy Burgess, the Soviet spy, worked for Section D and suggested to Maxse she should recruit his friend, Kim Philby. In his book, My Secret War (1968) Philby described his first meeting with Maxse: "I found myself in the forecourt of St. Ermin's Hotel, near St James's Park station, talking to Miss Marjorie Maxse. She was an intensely likeable elderly lady (then almost as old as I am now). I had no idea then, as I have no idea now, what her precise position in government was. But she spoke with authority, and was evidently in a position at least to recommend me for interesting employment. At an early stage of our talk, she turned the subject to the possibilities of political work against the Germans in Europe."RMS Nova Scotia (1926)
RMS Nova Scotia was a 6,796 GRT UK transatlantic ocean liner and Royal Mail Ship. In World War II she was requisitioned as a troop ship. In 1942 a German submarine sank her in the Indian Ocean with the loss of 858 of the 1,052 people aboard.RMS Rangitata
The RMS Rangitata was an ocean passenger liner, built in 1929, and scrapped in 1962. She was operated by the New Zealand Shipping Company between London and Wellington, New Zealand, via the Panama Canal with her two sister ships Rangitiki and Rangitane.During World War II, in 1940 Rangitata sailed from Liverpool with 113 evacuated children under the Children's Overseas Reception Board CORB scheme on 28 August 1940,bound for New Zealand through the Panama Canal in convoy OB 205, with SS Volendam (carrying children bound for Canada, which was torpedoed), with 113 CORB children arriving safely in New Zealand.
She also operated as a troopship, for example in convoy US1 taking New Zealand troops to the Middle East in January 1940. She had returned to civilian service by 1949.RMS Samaria (1920)
RMS Samaria was transatlantic ocean liner built for Cunard Line. She served from 1922 until 1955. During the Second World War she was a troopship in the Royal Navy. Samaria was scrapped in 1956.RMS Scythia
RMS Scythia was a Cunard liner. She sailed on her maiden voyage in 1921, and became a troop and supply ship during the Second World War. Scythia was the longest serving Cunard liner until 4 September 2005, when her record was surpassed by MS Queen Elizabeth 2.SS City of Benares
SS City of Benares was a steam passenger ship built for Ellerman Lines by Barclay, Curle & Co of Glasgow in 1936. During the Second World War the City of Benares was used as an evacuee ship to evacuate 90 children from Britain to Canada. The ship was torpedoed in 1940 by the German submarine U-48 with heavy loss of life, including the death of 77 of the evacuated children. The sinking caused such public outrage in Britain that it led to Winston Churchill cancelling the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) plan to relocate British children abroad.SS Duchess of York (1928)
SS Duchess of York was a 20,021 ton ocean liner operated by the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company. Built in 1928 in Clydebank by the shipbuilders John Brown & Company, she was originally intended to be named Duchess of Cornwall. However agreement was reached with Red Funnel company to swap names with the latter's paddle steamer Duchess of York, launched in 1896.She was sunk in 1943 off Spain after being damaged by long range German bombers.SS Nerissa
The SS Nerissa was a passenger and cargo steamer which was torpedoed and sunk on 30 April 1941 during World War II by the German submarine U-552 following 39 wartime voyages between Canada and Britain. She was the only transport carrying Canadian troops to be lost during World War II.SS Orduña
SS Orduna was an ocean liner built in 1913–14 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. After two voyages she was chartered to Cunard Line. In 1921 she went to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, then being resold to the PSNCo in 1926. Her sister ships were Orbita and Orca.She provided transatlantic passenger transport, measured approximately 15,500 gross tons, and was 550.3 ft x 67.3 ft.SS Oronsay (1924)
For other ships called SS Oronsay, see List of ships named Oronsay
SS Oronsay was a British ocean liner and World War II troopship. She was sunk by an Italian submarine in 1942.SS Volendam
SS Volendam was a 15,434 GRT ton ocean liner operated by Holland America Line (Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij). She was built in 1922 by Harland & Wolff Ltd, in Govan, Glasgow. Her 15,450 GRT sister ship TSS Veendam was built by Harland & Wolff the following year. She operated on transatlantic routes between Europe and the USA, sailing the Rotterdam – New York and Rotterdam – Halifax (Nova Scotia) service.
Her overall length was 575 feet (175 m) and her beam was 67.3 feet (20.5 m). She had two funnels and two masts. Four steam turbines drove twin screws, giving her a speed of 15 knots (28 km/h). Passenger accommodation was divided into three classes and initially configured as: 263 in First class, 436 in Second class and 1,200 in Third class. She was purchased by Holland America Line while under construction, and launched on 6 July 1922. Her maiden voyage started on 4 November 1922 sailing from Rotterdam to New York.
In May 1926 she was refitted to carry First, Second, Tourist and Third class passengers, and by April 1930 changed yet again to carry First, Tourist and Third class. Her last Rotterdam – New York voyage commenced 5 April 1940 therefore she managed to escape before the Netherlands was overrun and surrendered to the Germans May 1940.Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during World War II
This is a Timeline of the United Kingdom home front during World War II covering Britain 1939–45. For a brief narrative see United Kingdom home front during World War II, as well as History of Scotland#Second World War 1939-45 and History of Northern Ireland#Second World War. For the military story see Military history of the United Kingdom during World War II for foreign affairs, Diplomatic history of World War II,. For the government see Timeline of the first premiership of Winston Churchill. For a narrative history and bibliography of the home front see United Kingdom home front during World War II.