Wake Forest Historical Museum

LOCATION: 414 N. Main Street Wake Forest, NC 27587 CONTACT: 919-556-2911

The British Connection

News stories about William and Kate bring to mind all things British… including the excellent but nearly forgotten story of young World War II refugees safely shipped here from their homes near London to escape the Blitzkrieg.

The drama began in late spring of 1940. Hitler had invaded Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and France. Britain was next, and frightened parents rushed to move their children to safety. A pair of families with Wake Forest connections sent cables here, and the town responded. Compassionate residents promised to accept a number of English children, even contacting the U.S. State Department to clarify immigration law before proceeding with their plans.

Although it’s not clear how many children finally reached North Carolina, the large image (from the News & Observer) shows the first to arrive. Mrs. L.D. Smart is seen with her ward, 10-year-old Susan Oatfield. Mr. Don Johnston, head of the Royall Cotton Mill, cared for 14-year-old John Oatfield.

The children stayed only for the summer. They would not return to dangerous London and the bomb attacks, but to English boarding schools in the safer countryside. And they carried memories of Wake Forest with them.

(The two remaining images were taken in Wake Forest during the war.)

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Hours & Info

Tues-Fri: 9am-noon & 1:30-4:30pm
Sun: 2pm-5pm

Closed: Saturday and Monday

Call us at 919.556.2911

Free Admission

Follow us on Instagram!

Flying the Demon Deacon flag as we host visitors from the WFU Alumni Council. Welcome to #oldcampus! Happy Easter from the Wake Forest Historical Museum. (Old Well photographed from the Brewer-Harris Garden) These are the brothers of Kappa Sigma fraternity. They went to school here on the Old Campus and reunite each year at the Trek. They are an amazing group and we appreciate all they do for the Wake Forest Historical Museum! #kappasigma #wfu "His most unusual talent was combining profanity in unexpected ways," author Tucker Mitchell says to our Trek to the Old Campus crowd, about the subject of his excellent biography, legendary WFC football coach Peahead Walker. #wfu #oldcampus