The Brocket Babies

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Stories from 1944

1.  From Carole Cameron, daughter of Dorothea Barker - received 18th October 2008

I was born in 1944, as was my dear friend, PR, same day etc and we have been friends ever since!!! Our parents were all in the RAF, my father was pilot and they kept in touch throughout their lives. We immigrated to Canada during the 1950's. There is a story about my father landing his plane at Brocket Hall when I was born and of course getting into serious trouble with his superiors... don't know if that is a myth or not!!!! Probably is, because that year, he crashed in Libya, ferrying planes and was hospitalised there with burn injuries for quite a long time. My mother told me about staying in Brocket Hall and that the room she was in was purported to have been haunted... she said she never slept a wink!! Don't know which room it was. I think she said it was oriental? We never could figure out how our mothers got to Brocket Hall, as we all lived in North London and as I mentioned our parents were all in the RAF. It seemed a bit mysterious.

 

2.  From Mo Neate, daughter of Constance Kennedy, received 4th June 2009

I was born on 15th April 1944 to Constance Lilian Kennedy at Brocket Hall.  Connie was an unmarried (and shamed) single mum who came from Aspatria in Cumberland to stay with a friend in Fulham.  She was due to have me in the London Hospital which apparently had suffered some bombing particularly in the maternity wing.  Connie was sent to Brocket Hall to have me and later returned to Aspatria.  I was sent to the Church of England Children's Home in Muswell Hill for adoption.  I was called Christine.  On 17th May Mabel and Cecil Crouch adopted me and took me home to their home in East Dulwich where I lived for 28 years until my first marriage.  My adoptive parents re-named me as they didn't like names that could be shortened.  They called me Maureen - and I have been called Mo for many years!!  I am now Maureen Neate and live in Kent with my husband and son.

When I first heard that I was born in Brocket Hall I thought perhaps (erroneously) I had connections with the landed gentry and maybe the proverbial bike sheds!!  I eventually traced my birth mother after my adoptive parents had died.  Connie was married and living in Burnley.  She married a year after my birth.  A year later she had another daughter, Jean, who unfortunately died at 6 months old of pyloric stenosis (a now curable problem).  Two years later she had Robert whom I met several times.  Robert sadly died at the age of 53 after a hernia operation.

When I traced Connie I was working in the City of London and my senior partner gave me time off to go up to Burnley to meet Connie.  Just three days before I was due to meet her my intermediary from NORCAP met me at my office to tell me that Connie had died.  I was devastated and blamed myself to a certain extent for turning up out of the blue.  NORCAP had written to Connie asking if she could help one of their clients with information about a child who had been born in the spring of 1944 in Hertfordshire - Connie knew immediately it was me and was apparently overjoyed.  We did speak on the telephone.  I went up to Burnley for her funeral and met the rest of her 9 brothers and sisters.  Her husband and son are now dead, but I still keep in touch with my sister-in-law.

I am proud of the etching I purchased on my first Brocket Babe visit which hangs on my dining room wall.

 

3.  From Lyn Nixon - received 8th June 2009

My mother used to tell lots of stories about the time she spent at Brocket Hall. One of them I am sure cannot be true. She used to say that the day I was born 11 June 1944 the first doodlebug (V1) fell and it fell in the grounds of Brocket Hall. This event is not recorded anywhere I can find.  The first doodlebug seems to have fallen in London on June 12th, so she was not far out with the date but I think she was fantasising about the place.

I know that just after I was born at 3.15 a.m. on 11th June twins were delivered, as Mum said that the staff left her and went to watch the birth.

My father, who was in the Fire Service during the war was one of the men fighting the fires around St Paul's on the terrible night of 29th December 1940, verified the following story as true.

My parents and my brother were waiting at the station (Welwyn I presume) to take me home to Bounds Green, where we lived at the time and there was another mother with her baby also waiting for a train. She apparently asked somebody in the waiting room to hold the baby while she went to the lavatory. She seemed rather a long time and my mother went into the ladies to tell her that the train was approaching. The ladies was empty but the window was open. She had jumped out of the window and run away. What happened to the baby or the mother my parents never knew. I presume he or she must have been taken back to Brocket Hall and then either adopted or put in an orphanage. The child who, like me, must be approaching their 65th birthday probably does not know that he/she is also a Brocket Babe.

My husband took me to the restaurant in the grounds of Brocket Hall, Auberge du Lac, for my 60th birthday and it was a strange experience looking out over the lake and bridge that my mother had so often described. She said that the mothers used to put the babies in prams and push them around the grounds for 'an airing'. We went to a reunion at Brocket Hall in the same year. It is my intention to take my sons, their wives and children to a reunion around my 70th birthday. I think my grandchildren will be quite impressed when they see where their Grandma was born, even though it certainly did not look so opulent and beautiful in 1944! I only wish I had known that there were reunions before my mother died in 2001. She would have loved to have seen the place again. It must have been quite something for a very ordinary person, like my mother, to have given birth in such a place. She certainly thought so.

4.  From Shirley Simms, daughter of Sheila Coates - received 9th June 2009

Mum was in the ATS as a Wireless Operator. She met my Dad, Fred Massie from California, USA, a GI 'over here' during 1944. Fred was posted soon afterwards, and never knew about me.

Mum stayed at Lemsford House at that time, until I was 5 weeks old, and adopted. My Nan came to see me, but Grandad wouldn't, because he wouldn't have been able to leave me behind. They were unable to keep me because of their ill health- Grandad died the following year. My half sister Pat says Mum took me to a photographic studio while she was staying at Lemsford House, and I attach the photo, also the picture of my mother that was showed to my adoptive parents by the Adoption Agency. It must have been a dreadful time for Mum. She did not want to give me up. I have 2 treasured letters that she sent to the Adoption Society, where she asks for news of me. The final letter they sent her asked for a donation towards their work! I appreciate the social standards of the time, and the sheer scale of the problem, but it must have been heartbreaking for her. No-one else in the family knew apart from a brother and a cousin, as far as I know, who told my sister all about it, after I had contacted Pat through NORCAP.

I didn't start my search properly until 1998, and sadly Mum had died by then, but I was able to find and meet my Dad. When I finally tracked him down in 1999, he was surprised to say the least, but after the initial shock was delighted to be a father, although it was hard for him to grasp as he had Alzheimer's disease about 5 years- his first question was did I want child support!

I now live in Whitstable, Kent, and would be happy for you to publish my details on the web site. I would love to know if anyone else was at Brocket at that time- or staying at Lemsford House, and remembers how it was then.

 

5.  From Sheila Bell, daughter of Joyce Chapman - received 26th June 2009

At some time after my birth my Grandfather went to Brocket Hall to visit my mother and when an apologetic member of staff told him that only fathers were allowed to visit, his reply, in all innocence, was “That’s alright I am the father”.  This created a bit of a stir but he was allowed in to visit his daughter.

 

6.  From Anon (held on file) - received 8 July 2009

A wonderful account of life in Brocket Hall in 1944.  Please click here

 

7.  From Carol Sear - received 12th April 2011

I was born in Brocket Hall on 9 November 1944, daughter of Ernest Edward Lecomber and Dorothy Mabel Lecomber. At the time of my birth I believe my mother was evacuated due to bombing in the East End of Londom. I was registered at Hatfield Register Office. Welwyn Garden City and Lemsford are very dear to me.  I lived in WGC until 2004 and have lived in Spain since then. WGC and surroundings areas still have a very memorable time for me and would return tomorrow. It would be interesting to hear any information that you have about other people who were born around that time and where they live. I would welcome correspondence with any of these people if that is at all possible.

 

8.  From Carol Sear - received 4th April 2012

At the ripe old age of 67 years, I have just re-discovered my discharge card from Brocket Hall together with a telegram that my parents received upon my arrival.

   

 

9. From Marilyn Erasmus - received 11th June 2012

I was born on 7th January 1944 and my mother’s name was Barbara Dew who has since passed away.  My mother would be so pleased to know that a record is still being held of her time spent at Brocket Hall and even the story associated with her stay ( that of the Minister/Chaplain who handed her a telegram to say that my Father was missing believed dead in Italy (whilst she was in labour with me).  She told me that she didn’t believe it and although he was missing for three months, and his whole platoon wiped out except for him and his friend, he returned to England but not for another three and half years.

 

10.  From Susanne Ellingham - received 19th January 2013

My mother Emily Eugenie Black gave birth to a baby boy called Richard Eugene Losa (Black) on 15th May 1944 at Brocket Hall Maternity Hospital.  The story as I heard it later, at second hand in the late 1990s from her sister, was that she was a WAAF and engaged to someone in the armed forces who died before they could marry.  She went back to the RAF for the rest of the war and the child was adopted (this is stated on the birth certificate).  She kept contact with the new parents for a little while (possibly indirectly) as there is photo of a little boy aged about 2 on a beach that fits the story. She married someone else in 1948 and she died in 1994.

 

11.  From Dr John Twyford, Nailsea, North Somerset - received 6 May 2014

Many thanks for all your care and concern for the stories from Brocket Hall.  It is a comfort to know that it was a safe place to start life in and that people's kindness continues to be vital to our wellbeing.  I have attached a little story for your story board. Please click here.

 

12.  From Carol Bottrill (Western Australia) - received 14 August 2014

I was fascinated to see who in Western Australia was registered as a Brocket Baby and to my surprise Irene French has been registered, I live in Helena valley and she lives in Lesmurdie which is about a 15 minute drive from here.  I contacted her by email, and we arranged to meet for a coffee.  Two strangers coming together because of the Brocket Baby Register.  Well, Irene Rowe nee French and myself meet up for coffee as two Brocket Babies who had never met.  It was a lovely experience with both sharing our stories. Thought you may like to see this photo.  It was lovely to share our stories, especially as I have just returned from the UK and visiting the Brocket Hall estate, which was wonderful, but as the "Xxxxx Xxxxxxxx" had booked Brocket Hall for a function I was not able to see exactly where I was born, but we had lunch at the lovely Auberge du Lac.  The experience is one I will not forget.

Carol is to the left, and Irene to the right at this Western Australia Brocket Baby Coffee Morning.

 

13.  From Peter Hayes - received 17th April 2016

I was given your contact details by Vicki at Brocket Hall today.  I was born there on 16 April 1944 – 72 yrs ago and have never been to see the Hall until today.  My daughter bought my wife and myself a High Tea which we enjoyed very much today.  The staff were so kind – Alan the Head Butler arranged for us to be shown around the Hall and I saw the room my mother was in – The Prince Regent Suite – mum always called it the Peacock Room – the wall paper certainly made that clear.

I was recommended to contact you and get access to the Brocket Babes site – my name is Peter Hayes and at present live in Milton Keynes.  When I was born mother lived in Highbury -North London which took a bashing with the bombing – Luftwaffe were trying to knock out Cossors radio factory near our home – they hit everything else but failed to hit it.  Plenty of bombsites to play in /on when growing up – great fun building camps in ruins of old houses.  It was a wonderful experience seeing the place at last – never realised one could visit – love to do it again.  Please keep me updated of a any future reunions etc. Be nice to see what my generation have got up to.

 

14.  A poem from Maureen Isenberg - received 25th June 2016

A Brocket Baby

It was dull and wet and windy on the day that I was born

The wind did howl and blow a gust, heading for a storm.

But on this day in '44, I showed up like a rocket,

My place of birth, a Hall, I think, I think it was called Brocket.

A royal baby I could have been, but came from Petticoat Lane,

My roots they were quite lowly, and really very plain.

But I was born in Brocket Hall, so am I somewhat gentry,

When I return there once again will they charge me entry?

A red carpet may be lain, a guard of honour too,

But I am one of thousands, that means there's lots of you!