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Ford of Canada President Wallace Campbell with his British war guest David Leon at Edgewood, Campbell’s home in Olde Walkerville.

Safe Haven

The Ford Motor Company of Canada played an important role in the Second World War. Many Ford men were sent to Britain to design Canadian Military Pattern vehicles under great secrecy. In addition, a number of Ford men and women gave their lives in service for their country.

On the home front, thousands of trucks, scout cars, and Windsor carriers were manufactured in the Windsor Ford factory and shipped overseas to aid the Allies. The assembly lines were devoted entirely to military production from May 1942 to June 1946.

But perhaps the most intriguing component of Ford’s involvement in the war was their Evacuee program, popularly known as “Bundles from Britain.” Over 100 British children – the sons and daughters of British Ford employees from the London area – became the guests of Windsor Ford executives, dealers and the employees of feeder plants that supplied the auto industry, from 1940 to 1945. Wallace Campbell, the President of Ford of Canada, and his wife Gladys, had dreamed up the idea of offering the children safe haven.

Campbell and Lord Perry, the Chairman of Ford of Britain, worked together to arrange the transportation of the children to the Windsor area. Because of the German bombing blitzes in London, British parents were willing to entrust their children to caring families in Windsor for as long as the war lasted. Since the London-area Ford plant was producing armaments for the war, it was an obvious target.

The children, who were also referred to as the “Blitzkrieg Kids” started sailing across the Atlantic and arriving in Windsor after bombs began falling in London in July of 1940.

Some of these children were only 4 years old.

The Campbells personally hosted 23 children, who ranged in age from 4 to 14. The family converted the top floor of Edgewood, their large home on Richmond Street opposite Willistead Park, into a dormitory. Many other children also stayed with them for a brief while, before being situated in area homes.

Often, the only contact that the children had with their parents back in England was through letters that would often arrive with sections blacked out by military censors.

Unfortunately, not all the children were treated with warmth and affection and some were treated more like servants than refugees. Some even ran away.

In April, 2003, several guests, now in their sixties and seventies, who were among those that had chosen to emigrate to their adoptive country, gathered at the University of Windsor to attend a ceremony where a collection of interviews, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia of that time, was presented to the University and the Ford Motor Company. These documents represented 13 years of work by UNI-COM, a volunteer group of retirees coordinated by Bill McRae, who realized that this significant era of our local history shouldn’t be forgotten.

Peter Horlock, one of the Blitzkrieg Kids and now a resident of Mississauga, Ontario, was one of the attendees and is also keen to help preserve the memory. He donated the trunk that was given to him as a child to transport his belongings to his temporary home in Canada, to Windsor’s Community Museum, where it is currently on display. His story about returning to England after his stay in Windsor follows.

Reflections of a Blitzkrieg Kid: 1940 to 1943

by Peter Horlock

The war had been progressing for about a year when the time came for Britain to batten down the hatches. After Dunkirk the bombing raids were beginning in earnest. Through the generosity of the Ford Motor Company of Canada and its employees, an evacuation scheme was put into operation for the safekeeping of the children of Ford Motor Company of England employees.

At 13 I was one of those children lucky enough to be a part of this scheme.

In the spring of 1940, we lived in Hornchurch, Essex to be near the Dagenham plant where Dad worked. This area is almost a suburb of London and was also home to an RAF base and therefore deemed a target area.

Mom and Dad wanted me to go to Canada to be safe from the bombing and that soon I would be back with them when the war ended. It was a big rush getting outfitted, buying a trunk to put it all in, seeing all of my aunts and uncles, getting documents from school and saying goodbye to all my friends. To say I was thrilled was putting it mildly.

“Guest” Peter Horlock today with his boyhood trunk
(on display at Windsor’s Community’s Museum )

I was completely oblivious to the effect this would have on my parents.

In no time it was mid-July and we were at the train station saying goodbye – shaking hands in manly fashion with Dad and being embarrassed by a long hug from my Mom. (She told me years later that she ran down the station platform, to try to take me off the train.)

We were chaperoned all the way by Ford Motor personnel and finally arrived in Liverpool to board the CP ship “Duchess of Bedford.” It was a fast liner and so was able to travel alone. It was an exciting time, meeting the other evacuees, learning lifeboat drills, and generally getting in the way.

I attended most meals while we were in the North Atlantic, getting only mildly seasick. Then we were traveling down the St. Lawrence River where we really marveled at all the sights down to Quebec City.

One of Mr. Campbell’s sons (Noel I believe) met us and organized our train trip from Quebec City to Windsor. I remember that it felt like a luxury train after the British commuter trains we’d been using to get in and out of London.

After a long journey we arrived at the Windsor train station at the foot of Ouellette Avenue on the Detroit River. There were a lot of people there to meet us and help everyone get sorted into the various vehicles that would take us to the staging locations. I was one of twelve boys who were put on a bus with a chaperone and taken to the home of Mr. and Mrs. L.C. Angstrom and their daughter Barbara on Riverfront Road in Amherstburg.

Upon arriving we were all awestruck at this beautiful home and its park-like setting. Overlooking the Detroit River at its widest point, the property had a curved driveway leading to a huge house with a separate garage and two monstrous barns, plus equipment sheds for the farm machinery.

The Angstroms had things well organized for us and soon we were sitting down to our first Canadian meal. We were housed in a large room at the top of the house that had been turned into a dormitory. There were two American boys there also, who were waiting to join the RCAF. They looked after us younger ones and organized activities, etc, while we were getting Canadianized and waiting for the “foster parents” to come out and pick up those boys who had been assigned to them.

Towards the end of this period, Mrs. Angstrom asked me if I would like to stay with them as part of their family until the war ended. I couldn’t believe my luck! Of course I said YES! Thus began a wonderful friendship with a great family, which still exists to this day.

Mr. and Mrs. Angstrom were now Aunt Hazel and Uncle Carlton and Barbara became my older “sister” Barb. My room was a huge bedroom on the north end of the house with a great view over the Detroit River. They owned a 200-acre farm that stretched down the 10th Sideroad to Malden Road and as well, they were leasing another 800 acres across the road, to assist in the war effort. There were Belgian horses, milk cows, Berkshire hogs and Leghorn chickens, plus various crops. Uncle Carlton and the farm manager, Bert Madill, showed me how to look after the animals and generally be a “regular farmhand.”

About three weeks after arriving, I had my 14th. birthday and coincidentally, the first letters arrived from my mother. That’s when it really hit me how much I missed her but the Angstroms understood and provided lots of comfort. When September rolled around I started school at “General Amherst High” in Amherstburg. It was strange at first being in a co-ed class, but I was really made welcome by the teachers and classmates.

After school I would help on the farm, “mucking out” animal stalls, collecting eggs, etc. Dinners were formal affairs, so I had to clean up after chores before sitting down to eat. Then it was homework time before I went off to bed.

I was also involved in after school activities such as lacrosse, DCRA shooting team, school play and, as it was wartime, all male students, who were not conscientious objectors, were involved in the RCAC cadets. It was a truly great experience that guided me in later life.

Aunt Hazel made sure I wrote home to my Mom and Dad every week and it was always an event when my parents’ letters arrived.

British boys in front of the Angstrom home, Amherstburg

The school year had several highlights, of which the November 11th parade was the first. In 1940 all cadets were issued WWI uniforms from the school stores and it was a riot trying to get the thing to fit. Uncle Carlton had quite a laugh helping me wind the puttees and tie them off.

We were a small school with only 200 students, so in order to have a marching band, we enlisted the girls into a drum and bugle band. Another highlight was Christmas, which was very nice as there was snow in the area back then. We always had a play and a Christmas Social.

The big event of the school year was the annual cadet inspection in May and the Cadet Ball. This event became quite impressive after 1941 when we were issued our new, modern uniforms, which complemented the girls’ formal gowns at the Ball.

The scholastic side of my education was good, as I had to master French and Latin, plus various Maths, a new style of History and Geography, various English components, Phys. Ed. and Shop.

In 1941 I had my tonsils out at Hotel Dieu Hospital and I was “obligated” to eat ice cream to “ease” my throat. Another highlight was attending the wedding of Wallace Campbell’s daughter Glad to Nelson Works.

Although gasoline was rationed we did save enough for Uncle Carlton to drive us to Toronto and the CNE. The visit to the exhibition is sketchy, but I do remember driving along the QEW, only two years after it was opened. In December came the “Day of Infamy” and I remember listening to the news flashes on the radio with the Angstroms while we were all in the study. The next day, we heard President Roosevelt’s speech and realized the war was being brought home to all of us.

1942 was not a good year in general and the entire Windsor area was particularly hard hit with the news of the Dieppe raid. I remember Aunt Hazel going in to Windsor to comfort several friends who had lost loved ones in the raid.

One day, as a reward for our hard work we were allowed to go to Detroit to see and hear Glen Miller and his orchestra at the Michigan Theatre. He was playing between movies and just afterwards, he and his group joined the army.

After my 16th birthday in the fall of ’42, Aunt Hazel took me to get my temporary driving license. I was then allowed to “put the car away”, that is, drive it from the back door of the house to the garage, but eventually I was taken on the road for lessons. Gasoline rationing had been tightened up by this time and therefore I didn’t get to drive too much.

I remember that my mother’s letters were beginning to look like paper cut outs from the censor’s scissors.

Soon it was1943 and the war had taken an about turn. The Allies were no longer consolidating, but were starting to advance in both Europe and the Pacific. At home, we were starting to talk about when the war would be over. I had passed my Departmentals for grade 11 and spent the summer planting and harvesting on the farm.

In the fall I started grade 12. Patriotism was running high at this stage of the war, so along with a group of friends I made a pact to join the RCAF when I graduated. I wrote and asked my parents, who wrote back and agreed.

Before I could graduate however, the long arm of the British Government reached over the Atlantic and beckoned me. It was time to come home and do my duty. I had a con-versation with Aunt Hazel about the RCAF, but she felt it would be better if I went home, as I would get to see my parents for the first time in 3 years.

When all the official papers had been filled in, there came several rounds of long and very, very difficult goodbyes. I left the Windsor area from the station at the foot of Ouellette Avenue on Christmas Day 1943. I left behind very enduring memories of some wonderful people who I came to love as my own parents.

To Uncle Carlton, Aunt Hazel and Barb, you were a part of my life that is unforgettable.

Peter lives in Mississauga, Ontario and can be e-mailed at:

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