...And try not to cry.
That's what millions of English parents were told to do with their children during the first few days of World War II.
After Germany invaded Poland ion September 1,1939, England and France joined the conflict. Having anticipated the likelihood of war for quite some time, Winston Churchill developed a plan called Operation Pied Piper. This plan called for children of school age to be evacuated from the cities to the countryside, under the assumption that major English cities would become prime bombing targets.
Over the next three days, 3.5 million children were put on trains to towns in the English and Welsh countrysides. Most were evacuated with their entire school.
Parents were told to act as though the children were just going off for a holiday; to kiss their children goodbye, act cheerful and not cry. This was so as to minimize any feelings of anxiety the children might feel at being sent off.
No one knew how long the children would be gone. The kids were told it was just an adventure. But the parents knew differently - they knew that the children might not be allowed back for a long time. So it is a tribute to their spirit and patriotism that most managed to hold their tears and their fears inside as they watched the trains pull out of the station, taking their kids to live with people they didn't know in places they'd never been, and wondering if they would ever see them again.
Here is an excerpt taken from the Operation Pied Piper website, describing just one moment during the evacuation:
"One mother in London, after watching her own two children march off, saw two tots leave a line and rush up to a policemen standing in the middle of the intersection, holding traffic until the children had passed. “Bye-bye, Daddy,” they said. The policeman looked down, smiled, and said, “Now be good, kiddies.” The children then got back in line. As they did so, the mother saw tears rolling down the policeman’s cheeks."