Max Reynolds Account of his Experience of the Second World War

War seemed to creep up on our family. I remember in 1938 we were issued with gas masks (from the Hollybush on Penn Road Wolverhampton) and then in 1939 my dad was called up along with all the other Reservists. He joined the RAOC at a barracks near Nottingham then, after a brief leave, he was sent to Aldershot. I think this was the last place before embarkation to France, I can recall the farewell on the Station but I think we made a visit to him whilst he was at Aldershot. From that time 1939, through to 1945 there was just Mum and me and I grew from 8years old to 14-a very significant period of ones life!

There was a time of intense worry for my mum because she did not know whether dad was alive or dead, he was just “Missing”. This was the situation for 2 or 3 months until she had notification from the Red Cross that he was held as a POW in Stalag V111B.That was some relief for us.

For me this time was a time of upheaval, there was an imminent threat of bombing and invasion by the Germans and cities such as Birmingham and Coventry were badly bombed and people killed. Mum decided that I was in some danger and so I got sent to Uncle Fred’s parents who lived in a cottage on the side of Clee Hill. I must have been there for months because I was sent to the village school. I was not very happy; the couple seemed really old-fashioned to me and did not know how to cope with a 9year old boy. Neither did I like the school, probably because the old folks thought I ought to be sent to school with a bottle of milk to drink at playtime, nobody else did this so I felt very foolish and had my leg pulled by the other children.

When I returned home we took in Evacuees from Bermondsey in London, a mother and two girls, I think they stayed about a year, and as the Blitz eased they returned home. Later in the War when the Buzz Bombs were launched against London and the South East we had some more evacuees, this time a mother and daughter.

I tried to find the names of these evacuees from the records held at the Wolverhampton Archives on Snow Hill but was unsuccessful. However the archivist brought me some files held on refugees who had been allotted to the town. When I read through these files I was truly amazed because it revealed an episode of history that even now people do not know about. Apparently before the war in or about 1938 many Jewish parents became increasingly worried about the programs being carried out by the Nazis in Germany and Austria and what their future might hold. Many of the richer families sacrificed all their wealth in order to send their small children to England and the United States. In most cases they were never to see one another again, the parents being murdered in the Death Camps of the Third Reich over the next four years. A handful of these small children came to Wolverhampton and were billeted with friendly families, though what happened to them finally I do not know. Many I have heard were converted to Christianity and brought up as such by their adoptive family; there wasn’t much sympathy in those days for ethnic minorities! Now anyone can read the Minutes of the Meetings of the Committee organised by the local worthies, together with the Accounts held at the Wolverhampton Building Society.

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