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Evacuation of British Children in WWII

                           Wakefield & District Family History Society

On Saturday 2nd November we had James Roffey as our guest speaker. His topic was

‘ Evacuation of British Children in WWII.’  He spoke from first hand experience when at the tender age of seven he, along with his brother and sister, were among thousands of children who were evacuated from London in 1939. But first James explained how in 1938 the government, fearing the worst, organised the country into designated areas for billeting evacuees. Officials visited houses in these designated areas in order to determine if evacuees could be housed during the period of war.

James being from Camberwell in south London and attending an infant school was given a brown envelope one day along with other pupils which had to be taken home.  Instructions were listed of items that were to be made ready for each child in readiness for evacuation. Parents had to provide basic clothing while London County Council provided a brown suitcase, gas mask and a label to be worn indicating name, school and local authority. Parents were not told where their children were being sent to.

Then the day came when the children were marched off to a local railway station and although parents were not allowed to escort their children some did and James remembers a scuffle breaking out in which the police escort prevented some parents from snatching their children back. Finally a special train arrived and the children boarded and eventually arrived at their destination which was Pulborough in West Sussex. On arriving at the local school the children were given a cursory medical examination which also included a comb being dragged through their hair by a rather severe looking lady who we might now know as the ‘ nit nurse.’ The billeting officer arrived to escort the children to their various foster parents. James was split from his brother and sister and taken to a cottage in the countryside which he remembered as rather neglected and the garden over grown with weeds and nettles. The owner initially refused to take in James but the billeting officer made  his presence felt and threatened the owner with legal proceedings.

James was eventually re-billeted where he spent the next four years attending the local school and helping out his foster parents in their sweet and tea shop and also helping with their allotment and collecting eggs from their chickens.

Pulborough was only 12 miles from the coast and James remembers seeing the

aerial dogfights taking place over head during the Battle of Britain and views from the South Downs he saw the red glow over distant London as the city suffered during the Blitz.

He did receive the occasional visits from his parents and James was allowed to write to them too. It was a rather exciting period of his life and one that helped to turn him from a city boy to a country one.  Because this was a personal tale and one recounted with much humour made for a very enjoyable talk.

The next meeting is 7th December when there will be a special Christmas treat of mince pies and cake with music and Christmas reminiscences from Michael Duncombe All enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310.

Research/Open Day



The Society held its Research/Open morning on Saturday 5th October. The use of lap tops, microfiche readers, publications and information desks were available for family history research. Further help and interest was provided by representatives from West Yorkshire Archives and Wakefield Public Libraries. Ian Laidler brought his display of military medals while David Clayton had an array of historical photos. Christine Ellis had samples of  18th century accessories for ladies and our own Tony Banks provided a slide show of photos of Wakefield Then and Now.

Kathy Wattie , Vice Chairman, asked all volunteers present to attend a meeting in order to give thanks for all the help given and to emphasize how much their work is appreciated. Other matters were briefly discussed about the Societys future but she also asked for suggestions on how to encourage more people to volunteer. There is a constant need to inject new blood into any organization that relies on people giving up some of their free time to help in any way possible.

Next meeting is 2nd November when our guest speaker will be James Roffey Evacuation of British Children in WWII. All enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310

Globish:How English became a world language.



Recently when news has been reported on television the viewer cannot fail to see that when an incident has occurred such as the riots in Istanbul and Cairo or political demonstrations in Rome, placards or signs have been in English as well as the local language. David Cockman, our guest speaker, was able to demonstrate how English has become such an important international language.

At the EU are representatives of 28 countries and one third of the staff in Brussels are employed as interpreters. However President Barosso addresses the EU Assembly in English. One in four people in the world speak some form of English.

English is one of the Indo- European families of languages and many words from Welsh to Sanskrit have much in common. With the arrival of the Anglo Saxons in England in the 4th and 5th centuries there occurred a gradual assimilation of culture and languages with the indigenous population. Our DNA would show today that we are 60% of German origin. Many words we use today sound similar but are spelt differently.

Then came the Vikings from Scandinavia and Denmark in the 8th and 9th centuries and once again occurred a process of assimilation.

The Norman invasion of 1066 meant that the elite spoke French in England for the next two centuries while the peasantry continued with pre- conquest language based on Germanic and Scandinavian languages. This led to different parts of the country often speaking different forms of English. The publication of the Authorized Bible

in 1611 during King James reign also ensured a copy was made available in every parish in the country. This fact plus the popularity and influence of Shakespeares plays also played a great part in helping to enlarge and standardize written English throughout the country even though it was spoken in different dialects.

By the 18th century there was a movement to standardize the way English was spoken and the way it was spoken in London was advocated by such writers as Jonathan Swift. In the 20th century there were advocates of RP, Queens English and that of the BBC. However there has been a movement towards some radio and TV presenters  using local accents.

The global influence began in the 16th century with seeds sown by creation of Empire. This was accelerated with the advent of American English. Today this influence has led to international air traffic controllers communicating in English while foreign students coming to our universities is now a multi million pound industry The language of the internet is English and finally there is development of Chinglish often with hilarious consequences. Today there are over 360 million English speakers in China in a country that looks set to becoming a world superpower, one that sees the opportunity that English, no matter in what form it takes, will prove to be beneficial.

David Cockman delivered a very interesting and enjoyable talk and one that had many members present in stiches with laughter.

The next meeting is 5th October when we have our annual Open/Research morning.

Any enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or

Wakefield & District Family History Society

                            Titus Salt and Saltaire


On Saturday 3rd August a talk was given by Maria Gott whose ebullient delivery on the story of Titus Salt, soon had her audience interested, amused and often laughing out loud.

Titus Salt was a manufacturer, politician and philanthropist. He became an extremely wealthy man who was an MP and Mayor of Bradford. Born of congregational parents in Morley, Leeds in 1803 he followed his father into business but not as a farmer but into the textile industry His interest in using materials other than sheeps wool was ignited when on a visit to Liverpool docks to inspect some imported samples that he came across some alpaca wool from Peru. No one had processed this wool before but Titus recognizing the excellent quality of this sample set to and eventually invented a machine that could do just that.

He first set up his factory in Bradford but was soon on the lookout for a more suitable site away from the polluted air of that town which he found near Shipley on the banks of the river Aire.

As his wealth increased from the sale of fashionable clothes made from alpaca wool his factory was extended and he began to build a village to house his workers. Streets were named first from members of the royal family and then after his children. A church was built plus a school and an adult institute. He built a mansion twelve miles away at Crows Nest near Halifax from which he commuted by railway that he financed, to his factory.

Such was his fame and wealth that the great and the good came to visit his town of Saltaire ranging from Emperor Napoleon of France to Florence Nightingale.

Titus was particularly keen on hygiene and had a reservoir constructed to supply clean water to his workers house. He was a big believer on recycling waste to the extent that mens urine was collected in barrels and transported to leather works in Leeds. The men who collected and transported this liquid were known as piss takers.

 Human faeces was collected and mixed with lanolin taken from fleeces, dried and molded into briquettes that were used for fuel. The men who processed the mixture were known as shit stirrers. Neither terms were regarded as derogatory in the middle of the nineteenth century.

However some of the measures that Titus initiated were not always met with approval by many of his employees. These included a ban on hanging out washing to dry so he introduced wash houses with machines that worked on centrifugal force. He didnt like animals kept near the houses so he had set aside an area of land for allotments where animals could also be kept.  None the less he was often disliked for his rigid discipline, high rents and poor pay. It was only when he died in 1876 and his son took over that better relations began to develop.

Maria Gotts obvious enthusiasm for her subject was infectious and I am sure that many in attendance will look forward to part two of the Saltaire story next year when Maria will continue from Titus Salts death up to the present time when Saltaire was created a World Heritage site in 2001.

Next meeting is 7an>

A great deal of interest was shown by members by the number of questions asked and comments made by those in attendance of almost one hundred people.
The next meeting is March 2nd when Mike Gildersleve will talk on ‘ In Search of my Mother. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or

                       Wakefield & District Family History Society
 On Saturday December 1st entertainment was provided by Hautbois a talented musical duo, otherwise known as Ric and Helen Heavisides. They use music as a vehicle for teaching historical entertainment and have appeared in films, TV, radio, concerts and schools. Using a variety of musical instruments and with a Victorian Christmas theme, Ric and Helen divided their act in two with the first half given over to musical hall favourites from the 1890s. These included Daisy Daisy give me your answer do this was performed first in America which had a reference to the wearing of bloomers or trousers useful when riding a bike. Other songs included Boy in the Gallery with the tradition of men in the audience waving a handkerchief; Two lovely black eyes which had a political reference at a time when Irish Home Rule was being fought over in Parliament; My Old Dutch which was a lament to the injustice of married couples being separated on entering the workhouse when they had become too old to work. The old dutch [ or duchess ] was the wife and cockney rhyming slang has it that it was a reference the Duchess of Fife! All were invited to singalong with Ric and Helen.
 After a short interval in which mince pies, Christmas cake and hot drinks were enjoyed the second half of the show commenced with an invitation to join in with Christmas carols. Ric explained the origin of caroling when in Tudor times dancing in a circle was popular and that the word originated from old French. The singing of carols became popular in Victorian times. Such singing of carols or wassailing had originated in the Middle Ages when during the festivities held in mid winter people would greet each other with We are hale or we are well.
 A thoroughly enjoyable time was spent and the audience, suitably imbued with Christmas spirit, gave Hautbois well deserved applause.
There will be no meeting in January. On February 2nd Alan Stewart Kaye will give a talk on Those who serve. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or

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