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British Refugee Children at Smith During WWII

British Refugee Children

Near the beginning of August, 1940, nine British children arrived as refugees in Northampton[1]. Two of them remained only overnight and then went to Cambridge, Massachusetts; while Jennifer, Gillian, James, Angela, Margaret, and David Turner—aged 15, 13, 10, 8, 5, and 2—along with their mother Beatrice[2], the wife of the Trinity Hall Bursar at Cambridge[3], stayed with Mrs. Frank Lyman near the Smith campus.[4] On September 1st, Smith College President Herbert Davis, his wife, Gladys, and their daughters Ann and Jane, received Elizabeth, Stephen, John, and Robin Wilson, aged 15, 13, 10, and 9 respectively. Anne Nichol Smith, aged 14, also resided with them, as did one other girl who left shortly thereafter to stay in New Haven.[5] Anne McMinn (15), the niece of an old friend of President Davis[6], stayed with Laura Scales, the College Warden. Professor Moog of the Music department and his wife housed Antonia Deane Jones, and her sister Diana. The girls were 13 and 10. Two other boys were “at Miss Margaret Crook’s, [on] Washington Avenue”[7]. The children’s arrival was part of “Mr. Davis’s plan to bring over university children” from Oxford. Davis was working in cooperation with the United States Committee for the Care of European Children[8], led by Eleanor Roosevelt in an attempt to evacuate children from bombing during the Battle of Britain[9], whose meeting in July 1940 he had attended[10]. Originally more children had been anticipated both by Smith and by the Committee for the Care of European children, though the Committee’s “evacuation efforts were temporarily suspended after having successfully relocated just over 800 children[11].” According to LIFE Magazine, a 1940 Gallup poll found that more than six million American families were prepared to host a European child for the duration of the war,[12] though, as the magazine reported, “to those seeking to sponsor young refugees, it has been made clear that a vast amount of responsibility, a vast amount of personal effort, are involved[13].”Indeed the President’s Office at Smith overflowed with alumnae inquiries about hosting children.[14] However, “at the last moment eleven children were withdrawn from the [Smith] group because their parents could not face sending them in an unconvoyed ship”.[15] Nor, even if parents could bear the risk of their children’s transatlantic voyage, was it easy to navigate the various legal requirements to send children at all.[16] British parents had to apply for a visa at the American Consulate in London or Liverpool. The guarantor (person in the United States responsible for the child) had to have the name, birthplace, and age of the child, the names and nationality of his or her parents, and “an affidavit of full support of the child or children for the duration of the war, or until the children may be able to return home; to be witnessed by a notary public and accompanied by a banker’s reference.”[17] Additionally, the required necessary documentation was in continual limbo. However, a guarantor’s financial security was significant—children could not easily go home, if at all, and a sponsor was responsible for the whole of children’s expenses for the duration of the war. (Nor were children eligible for adoption by Americans[18].) Mrs. Davis had, in fact, herself collected the Wilson children and Anne Nichol Smith in Canada[19]. By November, 1942, the Davises had spent more than $2,000 for the Northampton group[20], including school and summer camp (or, for Elizabeth and Stephen Wilson, Anne McMinn, Anne Nicol Smith, and Antonia Deane-Jones, Putney Summer School[21]) fees, many of which were at a reduced rate for the English children[22].

Gillian Turner and Antonia Deane-Jones had scholarships to the Northampton School for Girls[23] from 1940 on. Anne McMinn had been provided one for the 1940-41 school year, but it was revoked the following year, and Mrs. Scales was advised to “make some definite arrangement.”[24] Stephen Wilson attended Williston Academy, while his siblings stayed with the Davises.[25] His brothers Robin and John went to the Smith College Day School.[26] Elizabeth Wilson [27]and Jennifer Turner graduated from Northampton School for Girls[28], Jennifer going on to Radcliffe in 1941 and Elizabeth matriculating at Smith. [29]

The Turners returned home in June, 1942.[30] In September, 1943, Professor Frank Percy “F.P.” Wilson arrived in the United States, [31] and his children returned to England that fall—Elizabeth through the Ministry of War Transport on 8 September, Stephen through the British Navy on 20 October, and John and Robin on 4 November.[32] Anne McMinn returned about the same time.[33]

That same month, Anne Nichol Smith, who completed her freshman year (1943-44) at Smith, received a cable from her father advising her to volunteer for war work as, having turned eighteen, she would then be eligible to be sent back to England on a government ship.[34] However, because “opportunities for war work in the services [were] so limited”[35], she returned privately to Oxford in June, 1944, with Antonia Deane-Jones[36], through passage arranged by the United States Committee for the Care of European Children.[37] Shortly thereafter Anne decided not to do war work, intending rather, as she informed the Davises, to continue her education at London School of Economics in Social Sciences.[38]


[1] Letter from Annetta Clark to Mrs. C. Edward Bell, 2 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[2] Memorandum for United States Committee, 24 July 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[3] Radiogram (unnamed) from James Turner, 18 June 1940 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[4] Letter from Annetta Clark to Mrs. C. Edward Bell, 2 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[5] Letter from Annetta Clark to Florence A. Gragg, 3 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[6] Letter from Annetta Clark to Mrs. C. Edward Bell, 2 August 1940, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[7] “English Children,” Typed list, Undated (ca. 1940-41), Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[8] Letter from Annetta Clark to Catharine B. Hooper, 6 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[9] See “The United States Committee for the Care of European Children,” http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/  glossary/uscom.htm

[10] Letter from Annetta Clark to Mrs. Robert D. Metcalfe, 13 July 1940, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, M-Z 1940-43, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

 

[11] See “The United States Committee for the Care of European Children,” http://www.nps.gov/archive/elro/  glossary/uscom.htm

[12] “U.S. Opens Its Homes and Hearts to Refugee Children of England,” Life Magazine, 8 July 1940. Accessed via Google Books.

[13] ibid.

[14] Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors, A-L 1940-41, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[15] Letter from Annetta Clark to Florence A. Gragg, 3 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[16] Cf. “Memorandum on Immigration Procedure for Children Under Sixteen Entering the United States,” Letter to Elizabeth C. Morrow, 25 June 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Consulate 1942,1944, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[17] ibid.

[18] “U.S. Opens Its Homes and Hearts to Refugee Children of England,” Life Magazine, 8 July 1940. Accessed via Google Books.

[19] Letter from Annetta Clark to Florence A. Gragg, 3 August 1940, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[20] “British Children” list of expenses, 19 November 1942, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[21] Typed list of summer camps and attendees from the Northampton group, undated, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[22] Telephone conversation with Jane Knowles, 15 March 2011.

[23] Letter from Annetta Clark to Miss (Sarah B.) Whitaker and Miss (Dorothy) Bement (Northampton School for Girls), 11 June 1942, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Consulate 1942,1944, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[24] Letter from Sarah B. Whitaker to Annetta Clark, 9 August 1941, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[25] Letter from Annetta Clark to Archibald V. Galbraith, 25 September 1942, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[26] Note card listing Wilson children, their schools and dates of birth, undated, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors—Davis, H.J., 1940-43, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[27] Note card listing Wilson children, their schools and dates of birth, undated, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors—Davis, H.J., 1940-43, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[28] [28] Letter from Sarah B. Whitaker to Annetta Clark, 9 August 1941, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[29] Letter from Annetta Clark to the Alien Registration Division, 3 October 1942, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[30] Letter from Annetta Clark to Miss (Sarah B.) Whitaker and Miss (Dorothy) Bement (Northampton School for Girls), 11 June 1942, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[31] Letter from Annetta Clark to John H. Finn, 10 February 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children 1940-42, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[32] Letter from Annetta Clark to J.W. Kinnevan, 3 December 1943, Herbert Davis Correspondence—British Refugee Children—Sponsors—Davis, H.J., 1940-43, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[33] Affidavit of Herbert Davis, 26 October 1943, , Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Refugee Children, Sponsors, M-Z 1940-43, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[34] Letter from Anne Nichol Smith (Ellen Emerson House) to British Consul General, 4 April 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Consulate 1942,1944, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[35] Letter from Anne Nichol Smith (Ellen Emerson House) to British Consul General, 15 April 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Consulate 1942,1944, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[36] Letter from Anne Nichol Smith to the Davis family, 13 June 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— Anne Nichol Smith, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[37] Letter from Anne Nichol Smith (Ellen Emerson House) to British Consul General, 15 April 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— British Consulate 1942,1944, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

[38] Letter from Anne Nichol Smith to the Davis family, 13 June 1944, Herbert Davis Correspondence— Anne Nichol Smith, Herbert John Davis Personal Papers, Smith College Archives, Northampton, Massachusetts

 

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