Updated: Apr 6, 2021
My Father’s family name (and mine) is Rhodes and John along with his twin brother George, were living with their parents , Godfrey and Kate Rhodes at the ‘White House’ in Chalkwell Avenue . John married Eileen Frith in 1942 (in Shrewsbury) and George married Mary Bull also in 1942 in Westcliff , which was still Mary’s home address and is given on her marriage certificate.
John Rhodes and George Rhodes were both relatively newly qualified Architects (UCL) having been to school locally at Lindisfarne college.
Turning now to our families during WW2, the Rhodes family were actually evacuated to Dorking some time before September 1939 and, according to the 1939 Register (a census in all but name), were installed in Dorking initially at ‘Martine’, Sondes Place Drive and subsequently at ‘North End’, Deepdene Avenue, which was nearer the Station. My Grandfather Godfrey’s occupation was recorded as Chief Assistant to the Manager of the famous Electric Cable Manufacturer [WT Henley's Cables]. Incidentally when he retired in January 1953 he was the Deputy Manager of the Company. We suspect that the family was evacuated to Dorking as it was lower risk area for commuting to London as he was working in the Head Office near Fenchurch Street; prior to the advent of communication satellites, internet, etc. submarine transcontinental cables which Henley’s produced, were a vital resource throughout the war and of strategic importance.
I found this in a search recently about Henley’s which you all might find fascinating for reference as well! Particularly the Pipe Line Under The Ocean ( Operation PLUTO).
The history of WT Henley, who founded the company that bore his name, began in 1837 in a workshop in London, where he manufactured covered wires. Henley progressed at an impressive rate and pioneered the submarine cable field with the vision of linking the world telegraphically. In 1859 he spent £8,000 constructing a factory in North Woolwich. WT Henley soon be synonymous with submarine telegraph cables, a success story that culminated in 1863 with the laying of the Persian Gulf telegraph cable for the Indian Government that was 1615 miles long. By the end of 1873, the Henley site had spread to cover some 16 acres and Henley owned three cable laying ships and a 400 foot wharf to allow 500 ton ships to load and unload. In 1906 work was completed on the new factory by the Thames in Gravesend, which like the North Woolwich factory included wharf facilities but, perhaps more impressively, purpose built research laboratories. For more information and photographs for both factories, visit Atlantic Cables
The Second World War saw Henley’s company winning praise for various tasks performed for the Government, especially its contribution to ‘Operation Pluto’, the system of petrol pipelines across the English Channel. Due to the important work for the Government the company was allowed to extend the factory at Gravesend during, or after, World War II (the exact extension date is unclear). The next door Rosherville Gardens was requisitioned to allow for this expansion. The main Henley factory at North Woolwich, however, suffered repeated damage during the war years that led to the decision to build and relocate production to a purpose-built factory at Birtley in the North East, completed in 1950. The Gravesend site was finally closed to production in 2008 and was demolished in 2012.
The relocated family included Grandmother Kate, John and George, as well as Kate’s (nee Brand) parents. John and George were each recorded as “Architect Qualified For ARIBA” In Police Service at New Scotland Yard. As mentioned earlier they both married in 1942 and with their wives, they subsequently moved from Dorking to a house that they then all shared together in Gravesend. John and George we believe by then worked in the Gravesend Branch of Henley’s Cables. Also, they were both serving in the Special Constabulary in Gravesend and were awarded ‘For Faithful Service’ medals recognising their contribution at the end of the war.
The Bull family were living in Ailsa House, Ailsa Road, Westcliff in September 1939. Mary’s mother Dora had been widowed in December 1938 when husband William unexpectedly died. His death clearly devastated the whole family. Living with them at the time was Dora’s mother-in-law (for moral support possibly). Mary was recorded as a probationer clerk (not sure where but we recall that she was working in the Bullion Office of the Bank of England during WW2). Her sisters Doris (15) and Grace Elizabeth (Blue) (10) were both evacuated to the US from Glasgow, via St John, New Brunswick, Canada, on 15 Jan 1941 on board SS Warwick Castle, to live with a distant friend of Dora’s in Minneapolis. Doris enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy when she left school and was based in Halifax. At the end of the war she returned to England and left the Navy. Like Dora, she studied to qualify as a State Registered Nurse in London and after a brief period working in Portugal settled in Chelmsford, Essex. Blue remained in Minneapolis and married Phil Lenox. Sometime after 1942, Dora moved to a flat near the Thames in Twickenham.
The Frith Family were also living in Chalkwell Avenue at ‘Hollingbourne’ prior to the evacuation. My grandfather , Herbert Edward Frith was Mayor of Southend 1933/34 but tragically passed away aged just 55 in 1936, having made a positive impact in various ways linked to the development of Southend , leaving his wife Violet Daisy Frith to care for and bring up their 3 children Dorothy, Eileen and Dennis. The family firm of aluminium tin foil printers - W G Frith & Co Ltd - operated in Southend having moved from Walthamstow in 1928, initially to an industrial site in Westborough Road and then moving on to a purpose built factory in Kenway, Prittlewell in 1930-31.
The rapid evacuation of Southend in 1939 meant that both the family and the factory had to move quickly as Southend became a restricted area and the factory was relocated to Shrewsbury , whilst Violet Frith and the 3 children initially moved to Stanmore in Middlesex, before subsequently moving to Shrewsbury as well . It was whilst in Stanmore that Dorothy married Walter James Percy Bacon (Jimmy) in Stanmore on 24th August 1940 whilst he was on pre-posting leave from the Irish Guards.
The temporary move from Southend to Stanmore for the Frith family included great grandmother - Sarah Bachelor – Violet Frith’s mother. The location maybe seems an odd decision now when one considers it was in the vicinity of Fighter Commands Headquarters during the Battle of Britain! Whilst in Stanmore Sarah Bachelor was taken ill and Clement Atlee’s wife - Violet - who lived nearby, assisted in looking after her having gained some nursing experience during the First World War as she had served with The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel.
Jimmy Bacon served in the Irish guards in the North Africa campaign which led on to Sicily and Italy. He was at Anzio and we think at the later stages of Monte Cassino and according to demob papers this was a posting of 341 days. Typical of many who served, little was said after the war and one of the only things he really spoke of was being around the Bay of Naples when Vesuvius erupted. Subsequently there was a NWE posting which refers to North West Europe and this was of 1 year 79 days duration with No4 Company 3rd Battalion Irish Guards B.A.O.R. (British Army on the Rhine).
Jimmy Bacon was formally demobed/released to the Royal Army Reserve/Territorial Army and sent home to Southend on 28 December 1945 and was only formally released from the TA, like most conscripts, on reaching the age of 45, in 1954.
His medals - which apparently always remained in the box they were posted in - arrived a couple of years later and were the 1939-45 Star, The Italy Star, The France and Germany Star, The Defence Medal and 1939-1945 War Medal.
Jimmy Bacon - Irish Guards
Figure 3. HE Frith – Mayor elect 1933 , with his wife Violet and left to right standing Eileen, Dennis and Dorothy.
Figure 1: G E Rhodes – W T Henley Cables
Figure 5 George Rhodes and Mary Bull at their Wedding in Westcliff in 1942