English Heritage curators at Brodsworth Hall seek Doncaster memories of Dunkirk conflict

By Culture24 Staff | 16 June 2010
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a photograph of a Victorian Hall with portico entrance set in sumptuous grounds

Brodsworth Hall in South Yorkshire was requisitioned during World War Two

English Heritage Curators putting together an exhibition about the wartime role of Brodsworth Hall near Doncaster are hoping to unlock some local memories of the Hall’s role in the aftermath of Dunkirk.

The exhibition, to be unveiled in 2013, will be called the Country House and War, tracing the compelling stories of people connected with the magnificent Victorian country house and its estate during the two World Wars of the 20th century.

At the beginning of the Second World War, after the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the House was requisitioned by the army as a camp for the exhausted soldiers of the 44th Division, which had been badly mauled in the retreat and escape from the French coastal town.

Family and staff gave up many rooms of the house and the grounds and farm buildings were also used for the exhausted Division.

A photograph of an official document with the King's cipher at the top

(Above) Letter from the Army requisitioning Brodsworth Hall for the duration of World War Two

Geoffrey Morrell, from Pickburn, witnessed the arrival of bedraggled troops from Dunkirk. They spent many months in South Yorkshire re-equipping and his father’s estate farm was requisitioned by troops.

"The whole of the 44th Division came straight from Dunkirk into Brodsworth Park," he recalls. "Quite literally, they had nothing. The only thing they carried into our house from Dunkirk was a crate of whisky.

"And they had no knives, forks, anything, no cooking utensils, nothing. They had to use ours while they re-equipped."

English Heritage Curators have already gathered some oral history accounts, but they want to add to them and see if they can collect more photographs of the period.

"The number of people who can remember what happened directly is of course dwindling, so that's why we are making this plea now," says Caroline Carr Whitworth, English Heritage Curator.

"The war affected peoples' lives in many different ways at Brodsworth. Ordinary people witnessed and did extraordinary things, making it a really fascinating story."

If you can help, contact Caroline Carr Whitworth on 01302 722598, or email her.

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