Fifth of Irish say relative evacuated from cities in WWII

Almost 20% of Irish people claim to have a relative who was involved in Operation Pied Piper, the mass movement of millions of women and children from British cities in the first three weeks of the Second World War.

Fifth of Irish say relative evacuated from cities in WWII

Almost 20% of Irish people claim to have a relative who was involved in Operation Pied Piper, the mass movement of millions of women and children from British cities in the first three weeks of the Second World War.

Research to mark the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the war on September 3, 1939, has also revealed that over half of people (52%) here have a living Irish relative who can remember the hostilities being officially declared.

However, the percentage who knew the exact date the war broke out is slightly smaller at 49%, while Irish people struggle to correctly identify who the British prime minister was at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The majority of Irish people believe Winston Churchill occupied Downing Street when it was, in fact, Neville Chamberlain who was in charge when Britain entered the war.

The same percentage of us were able to say that it was the invasion of Poland which triggered the declaration of war against Nazi Germany.

Operation Pied Piper was the biggest and most concentrated mass movement of people in British history, saw over a million mothers and children evacuated from cities and mainly into the safety of the countryside in the first three weeks of September 1939.

Most were schoolchildren, who had been labelled like pieces of luggage, separated from their parents and accompanied instead by 100,000 teachers.

The survey of 1,000 people by Ancestry.ie found 19% of Irish people surveyed said they had a relative involved in the operation.

The research also shows Irish people’s love of passing down stories through the generations. It found that 29% of Irish people who had an understanding of how their family reacted to the outbreak of the war heard it directly from relatives.

A further 17% heard about their family’s experiences through family memories and stories passed down.

Commenting on the research, Simon Pearce, spokesperson with Ancestry.ie said: “The Second World War was one of the largest historical events in the 20th century.

As an independent nation forging its own path, Irish people’s involvement in the war is unlike any other event in history.

“Those Irish nationals who fought were either resident in another country or they chose to fight.

“This research reveals the extent of the Irish memory and interest in World War Two.

“This is our forgotten Irish history and we now have the chance to rediscover all the lost stories.

“We should make the most of our relatives who remember the war and the historical records available to us to learn more about our family connection to these significant events,” added Mr Pearce.

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