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Mystery of the Diarist solved...nearly

Pretty sure I've got it.

Recap: as part of my volunteer work for the wood, I am working on part of the diaries of a TB sufferer in South London during the blitz. Don't have his surname, don't have his address - though I had managed to narrow it down to the right street - so it's hard to pinpoint where he was in relation to the bombs being dropped around him.

One big clue: he often speaks of visiting the refugees next door. That should be enough; the area has been owned by an intensely wealthy organisation since the 17th century, so there would surely have records of rents/leases etc. At first, a local expert told me it couldn't be right; there was an internment camp very nearby, why would there be a refugee house less than 200 metres away from it? Plus, the internment camp was full of Dutch, Belgian and French refugees. This made no sense. The names recorded by the diarist seemed German. But I couldn't find them anywhere outside his diary.

Local archivists, keepers of estate records and minute books were a bit lost as to where to begin, until another local expert, the uberlocal expert, a kind of Beyond Bromley Bombadill, who knows everything about everything in the area, answered my question directly.

'Oh yes,' He said, 'It was kindertransport. Tell [archivists name] to search in the governor's minute books for years 1938 or 39.'

I reported this to the archivist, who promptly hunted down the info and sent me scans of transcripts. Apparently a house in the street was offered rent free to German 'Non-Aryan' families fleeing from their homeland, until such time as they could sort themselves out. This was pressed for by the vicar of the local chapel, the congregation putting money and goods together to get the house furnished.

Now, this lease was extended, but I haven't seen the paperwork extending it to the point at which the diarist described it, because they don't have a copy there, but they will have a copy in the estates office. I've made an appointment - they can't let me in til mid March. Even if they don't have it, this all looks quite likely.

It's a nice piece of local history, proving once again that if war brings out the worst in people, it also sometimes brings out the best. They were kind to each other, generous beyond belief, brave without realising it. And I wonder if we still have any of that. I hope so.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2014 09:32 pm (UTC)
Really interesting!

It's encouraging to read of such selfless kindness amidst a time of incredible difficulty.

Mar. 2nd, 2014 11:13 pm (UTC)
They were good folk...it's encouraging to know that war can sometimes bring out so much good in people!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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