As many of you will know (see Ungerson, Four thousand Lives, 2014), after war was declared in September 1939, that autumn, a series of tribunals was held at Kitchener camp to determine whether the men were ‘friendly’ or ‘enemy’ Aliens. Ungerson describes those who arrived to conduct the tribunals as already having a substantial amount of information about the men, to which they added over the course of these meetings. For many, it was the first opportunity they had had to share with those in authority what had happened to them in Germany.
The vast majority of the men in Kitchener camp were deemed ‘friendly’, and shortly afterwards they were ‘given the opportunity’ to join the British Army as part of the Pioneer Corps. One Kitchener family reports that the men themselves demanded the right to be allowed to join up.
Kitchener camp became a Pioneer Corps training camp over the coming weeks and months, and the ensuing events both for those who joined up and for those who did not wish – or were not allowed – to do so, will be explored as we move into coverage of the war years, which will converge around Dr Helen Fry’s talk on the AMPC in October 2018.
October 17th, from 6 to 8.30pm, at the Wiener Library 29 Russell Square, London, WC1B Dr Helen Fry: Digging for victory: Refugees in the Pioneer Corps in WWII Helen Fry has researched and published widely on the 10,000 Jewish refugees who fought for Britain during the war. These included 6,000 who started out in the ‘alien’ Pioneer Corps, many having enlisted from internment. Many went on to see active service in wartime and made an extraordinary contribution to the defeat of National Socialism. Their legacy is largely still unrecognised by the nation, including their vital work in denazification at the end of the war.
Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting another Kitchener descendant at the Wiener. We were meeting to discuss his family’s numerous Kitchener and Pioneer Corps documents.
It is going to take a while for me to go through everything, and get it all uploaded, but as a taster, for those with fathers or grandfathers in the 74th Company Pioneer Corps, below, you may be able to see your relative in one of the photographs sent in.
These are of the old school photograph type, and as such I was unable to scan them in their entirety, but they are presented here in two halves.
Even better perhaps, to those trying to find out more basic information – such as which of the six companies of Pioneers at Kitchener their relative was in – our fellow descendant also brought in a substantial amount of paperwork, including lists of names of the men in that company.
For now – I hope you enjoy the photographs – and please – do tell us if you can name anyone shown here!
(As usual with images across the site, please just click to enlarge the photographs)
From a Kitchener family: Dr Julius Gildener from Vienna, is shown in the first photograph standing furthest left in the back row