For those evacuees lucky enough to be evacuated to Madeira and Jamaica, life was quite pleasant and conditions were much better than those sent to war-torn London. The evacuees were given a warm welcome by the authorities and people of Madeira and Jamaica in sharp contrast with the treatment previously received in Morocco at the hands of the French authorities.
The Gibraltarian families evacuated to Madeira were those supposed to be quite well off as only those who could afford to pay for their own passage and live by their own means were sent there. The Portuguese Government agreed to allow 2,000 Gibraltarians to be evacuated to the island but only half that number could independently maintain themselves without any assistance whatsoever. The evacuees were therefore divided into three categories. Those who could live independently were placed in Category A; those who could partly pay for their upkeep were placed into Category B, whilst those who could not afford to maintain themselves were placed in Category C. Madeira had at the time been on the verge of bankruptcy and the arrival of 2,000 evacuees from Gibraltar was a huge bonus for the struggling economy of the island. As a result the hotels were filled and many local shops prospered.
Amongst those evacuees in Category C were residents from the fishing village of Catalan Bay housed in a building known as the Lazareto. The category A’s and B’s were accommodated in hotels or, for those lucky enough who could afford it, private accommodation.
Notice offering evacuees passage to Madeira.
A ‘British School for Gibraltar Children’ was opened and, like those children being schooled in England, English became the primary language to be spoken in schools whilst Spanish was now, strictly forbidden. Meanwhile in Jamaica, roughly 1,500 evacuees were housed in a special camp called ‘Gibraltar Camp’. Thousands of Jamaicans turned out to cheer the evacuees as they rode into camp in 35-seater buses. Jamaica was also a British colony and wanted to contribute towards the war effort in any way they could. Jamaican authorities did everything possible to make Gibraltar Camp comfortable. However, there were a few minor problems, in particular with the fact that many evacuees were bored having almost nothing to do, as they were not allowed to work outside the camp or contribute towards the war effort.
Eventually the situation improved and the educational needs of the children were soon provided for, by setting up, in January 1941, what became known as the ‘Gibraltar Camp School.’ Sporting and leisure activities were also set up during this time. When the evacuees finally left Jamaica towards the end of 1944, the Governor of Gibraltar wrote a letter which was published in the Gleaner, a Jamaican newspaper, expressing gratitude for Jamaica’s hospitality to Gibraltarians:
“Now that they have returned safely to the Rock, the anxieties and discomforts inseparable from four years enforced residence in unfamiliar surroundings have been forgotten and they remember only that Jamaica gave them sanctuary and made them welcome”.