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

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Atlas Ray, owner of a legendary store in the Harricanes, was among those remembered at the WFHA program on country stores. Just received several reels of 16mm film. Looks like 1950s home movies of the Demon Deacs in the Billy Barnes days!!! From the April 1961 Wake Forest phone book... instructions on how to use a dial telephone, how to dial a number, how to interpret ringing and busy signals, and what to do on a party line. Anyone else remember those days? This amazing photo from Sanford Bailey shows just HALF of the folks at the 1954 Powell Family Reunion!!!