Monday, December 31, 2007

Keswick Hotel during the Second World War

The Keswick Country House Hotel, Cumbria.
(Photograph by J. Ritson, December 2007)

The Keswick Hotel was the wartime home of the Independent Boarding School for Girls, Roedean. The school had temporarily relocated from Brighton, East Sussex in May 1940 when its clifftop location on the south coast was believed to be at risk from German bombers on the southern side of the English Channel. About 50 or so girls were evacuated to Canada, while the rest of the school and the staff were evacuated to Keswick, Cumberland (now Cumbria) in the northern Lake District. The evacuated girls were mainly aged 11 - 16.

The Keswick Hotel, owned by the Wivell family, was used as the main building, housing the Senior Girls and the staff. Other, more Junior Girls, were boarded at Millfield Hotel, Shu-le-Crow Guest House and some prefabricated huts. As well as using rooms in the Keswick Hotel for teaching, some of the other premises that were used as classrooms included the hotel garage, the Methodist Church Rooms and parts of the adjacent Keswick railway station including the waiting room. In fact the waiting room continued to be used by railway passengers even while lessons were being taught. There were some strange things that took place during WW2!

(For additional information about Keswick and Roedean School. click on 'Comments' below)

Roedean School Shield, Keswick, Cumbria

A photograph of the Roedean School Shield at the Reception of the Keswick Country House Hotel, Keswick.
( Photograph by J. Ritson, December 2007)

This is a photograph of the Roedean School shield. It was presented to the Keswick Country House Hotel, Keswick, Cumbria in 1990 by former pupils and staff of the school during a 50th Anniversary reunion of the school's evacuation to the hotel from its usual home at Brighton, East Sussex.

Roedean, an independent boarding school for girls aged 11 - 16, was based at Keswick Hotel during the Second World War. Between 1940 and 1945 the Hotel was the main building for approximately 350 girls and the staff of Roedean School.

The motto on the shield reads 'Honneur Aulx Dignes' (Honour with dignity). The modern-day motto of the school is 'Education with imagination'.

[Thanks to the management and staff at the Keswick Country House Hotel for their assistance with information about Roedean School at Keswick during WW2].

Roedean School at Keswick: the War Years

A photograph of Roedean School on display at its wartime home in Keswick, Cumbria.

This photograph of the staff and students is displayed in the Reception Area of the Keswick Country House Hotel (part of the Choice Hotels Group). It was taken with the permission of the Hotel management during a visit to the hotel in December 2007.

Displayed on the Ground Floor of the Keswick Country House Hotel, Keswick, Cumbria is a brief summary of some of the key events and visitors in its history since it opened its doors in 1869. The following extract, transcribed with permission, summarises the evacuation of Roedean School from Brighton, East Sussex to Keswick, in the county then known as Cumberland (now Cumbria):

"At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Keswick Hotel closed its doors as a hotel and was used to house the staff at the Roedean School who were evacuated from their premises on the South Coast in 1940. The hotel provided a safe haven for some 350 girls between the ages of 11 and 16".

For additional information about Roedean School, click on 'Comments' below.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Seasonal Greetings from Cockfosters

Once a year, around this time, my youngest daughter, Ruth, invites the rest of the family to spend the day with her
and her family in the wilds of Brookman's Park in rural Hertfordshire.

We always take the opportunity to get a group photo and so, through the wonders of a timer on my camera, I once again captured a souvenir of a treasured "family get together". Kate, my oldest grand-daughter, was away up North this year and so we were not quite complete but we were loth to break with tradition, hence the attached.

All the above merely as a preamble to wish everyone who uses this Blog

Compliments of the Season
and a
Very Healthy & Happy New Year


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Xmas Airgraph from Niccar

Niccar replied to my "Customised Airgraphs" thread like this:

"Hi Ron
Just seen your posting about the airgraph that was sent to you by a relative of a private Caplan concerning the Jewish new year and
Yom Kippur and how it spurred you on to look up your diary to rediscover what you were doing at that particular time well about six months ago one of my nephews asked me about my army service and
I typed about six or seven pages of pure comedy some bawdy and informed him of the many sites like this one to fill in all the gory details that I would not or could not do, he duly thanked me for a good laugh and sent me an airgraph that I had sent to his father and mother for Christmas
1943 from Italy it has the box at the top with their address franked by the army post office (three times I might add )and my details on the top of another larger oblong box with the words Christmas Greetings from The Eighth Army and underneath was the shield of the eighth on a black background a palm tree on the left and an oak tree on the right side underneath were these words ( together you and I we will see this thing through to the bitter end ) all the words were in old English script and it is dated 4/11/43 if only I were more knowledgeable about computers perhaps I could have posted it to the site"

Wot Mate? Like this one ?

Just to set the record straight, Boabbie, who kindly sent me the Airgraph, is not related to the Caplan family but simply came across it amongst his father-in-laws effects and sent it to me as an item of general interest.

Friday, December 21, 2007

'The World At War' - The Landmark Oral History

The original 'definitive' ITV television series 'The World At War' was first broadcast in the UK in 1973. It told the story of WW2 through the personal testimonies of a large number of key participants - including many major statesmen of the war years, generals, ordinary soldiers and civilians. The main single exception of the contributing interviewees to having been a 'participant' was the American historian Stephen E. Ambrose (1936 - 2002). At the time the series was made, Professor Ambrose had recently finished an important study of the Allied Supreme Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Inevitably, only a fraction of the interviews and other material gathered during the making series actually made it into one of the 26 episodes. In 2006 the respected historian and best-selling author Professor Richard Holmes was invited to review all the interviews and data, including the previously unpublished interviews. Eventually, this has led to the publication of a new book in 2007 with a reflective commentary by Richard Holmes. The book complements the documentary series and makes an interesting read for anyone with even the slightest interest in the war years.

Further reading:

Holmes, Richard (2007), 'The World At War - The Landmark Oral History', Ebury Publishing (ISBN 978009197517)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Customised AirGraphs

I recently received an intriguing e-mail from Boabbie, concerning an image I had previously posted of an AirGraph that I had sent home from Italy.

Bob kindly sent me the attached AirGraph that he had found in his late father-in-law's effects and I found it of much interest.

As you can see, it was sent by a Pte.Caplan to his family back home on the 16th September 1943 and, like other Airgraphs of that period, it had been designed to cater for a particular occasion.
In this case it was the Jewish New Year and the large Hebrew letters read as "Rosh Hashana" and "Yom Kippur" (New Year & Day of Atonement).
I went back to my diaries to see what I was doing when Pte.Caplan sent this AirGraph home and see that on the 20th I was on the aptly named "Ferry Service" across the Messina Straits

The Airgraph reads:
Pte.M.Caplan B Coy, 15th Fd Amb. C.M.F 16.9.43


To my dear wife Nan and son Sydney
Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year and well over the fast from your loving husband and daddy
5704-1943 SEP 1943

Extract from Rgt.Diaries of 49th LAA Rgt. RA

On 3 Sep supported the movement over the Straits of the Op BAYTOWN units, the invasion of Italy.
On 6 Sep the regt reverted to under command 78 Div.
On 8 Sep the regt, less 90 Bty, moved to a cone area at Fumari. 90 Bty remained in defence of Milazzo port and airfield.
On 13 Sep 90 Bty joined the regt in the cone area. The regt was now under orders to move to Italy and
On the 20th 84 Bty (Ron's Battery)embarked on the Ferry service to Reggio. RHQ followed
On the 22nd and between 23 and 25 Sep moved via Crotone and Taranto to Bari and was established in a house on the outskirts of Trani.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jewish ATS Volunteers from Palestine

Catherine L has sent me this previously unseen poster from Palestine of the 1940's that shows how Jewish volunteers were urged to join the ATS.

In all honesty, I never stopped to think that such encruitment took place so perhaps Catherine herself will tell us more about the poster by making a comment on this posting ?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

'The True Story of Lili Marlene'

Written and directed by Humphrey Jennings of the Crown Film Unit (also known as GPO Film Unit), 'The True Story of Lili Marlene' was released in 1944 and given a 'U' Rating by the British Board of Film Censors. Introduced by the actor Marius Goring the film depicts how an obscure pre-war song recorded in German by Lale Anderson became the unofficial anthem of both the Axis and Allied Forces after being broadcast by the German Forces Radio Broadcasts from Radio Belgrade.

As the film correctly depicts the tune was adopted by the British Eighth Army, with the soldiers and others often adding their own words in English. Also seen in the film is a British propoganda version recorded by Lucie Mannheim, and interviews with men of the Eighth Army telling what the tune meant to them. As the film was made in 1944 it was probably just a little too early for any of 'The D-Day Dodgers' versions to be included.

Although 'The True Story of Lili Marlene' is probably rarely seen, it is now available on DVD. I viewed this for the first time in December 2007. Other Crown Film Unit films from the war years that are also available on DVD or video include 'The Story of an Air Communiqué' (1940), 'Britain Can Take It' (1940), 'Christmas Under Fire' (1941), Britain at Bay' (1940), 'Men of the Lightship' (1940) and 'Before the Raid' (1943). The latter film is released on the same DVD as 'The True Story of Lili Marlene'. Frank Humphrey Sinkler Jennings also directed 'The Cumberland Story' (1946) in which my father and uncle had small parts.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Women's Land Army girls receive belated recognition !

An item on the BBC news states that the "Land Girls", who worked on British farms to ensure food was supplied during World War II, are to receive a commendation recognising their efforts.
All surviving members of the Women's Land Army, which was 80,000-strong at its peak, will receive a special badge.
They "worked tirelessly for the benefit of the nation" during the 1940s, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said.
"Their selfless service to the country deserves the recognition that this badge will represent," he added.

I've told my much loved sister Polly, see photo, to apply for the long overdue badge !

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tommy Morris.... An appreciation

I have regularly attended the annual AJEX parade at the cenotaph for the past 60 odd years but this year was unable to make it.
Amongst the familiar faces that were missing on this year's Parade was Tommy Morris who carried his 95 years so well. He will be sorely missed.

The following tribute was made on the AJEX website:

Tommy Morris who died in January at the age of 95 and was believed to be one of the oldest surviving paratroopers of WW2 was a familiar figure in AJEX circles.

Landing in Normandy on D- day he saw action in France, Belgium and Holland and finally in Germany until the end of hostilities. In Belgium, on liberating a hotel in Brussels he was given the right to stay without charge at any time. He will be missed in his home town of Plymouth, where he conducted his business in antiques. We salute the passing of a courageous comrade and are grateful for the bequest that he has left to the Association