Intermission (2) – Home Front – The Blitz Kids of Palm Beach, FL

The Elliot Children

Three young siblings sit at a fountain.  Two girls in matching dresses and white, floppy bonnets; a lad in a schoolboy’s jacket and shorts.  Their smiles are subdued.  The children are long-term guests at the compound of one of Palm Beach’s more famed denizens, Charles Merrill.

Across the sea, their mother pines for her son and two daughters.  But she knows they are safer in America than they would be in England.  Night after night, the full fury of the Nazi war machine bombs their homeland.  “This photo shows Alistair, Anne and Jean Eliot one Sunday at a church in Palm Beach called Bethesda,” poet and writer Alistair Eliot, now 84, recalled. [Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.  Anne on the left; Jean in the middle.]

Charles Merrill

Their emergency host being Charles Merrill, founder of the world’s largest brokerage firm.   Alistair knows little about his family’s connections to the Merrills.  “I am unaware as to how or why these three were chosen, but I met them during the summer months when they accompanied my grandfather to Southampton, NY,” said Merrill Lynch Magowan.

What brought these children to Palm Beach, Florida was the Blitz.

Even before the raids started, British parents started thinking about getting their children out.  The Elliots first planned to move theirs to Australia, Canada or South Africa.  Starting in June 1940, a board that coordinated children’s passage was swamped with applications.

Late in the evening of 17 September 1940, the City of Benares  was 4 days out from Liverpool when a torpedo slammed into it.  The attacked killed 131 of the 200 crewmembers, 131 of the 197 of the passenger – including 70 of the 90 children – this would end the government program.

The British National Archives shows that privately sponsored programs continued and that’s how the Elliots got to the U.S.  In late November 1940, Mrs. Elliot and her 3 children crossed the Atlantic, bad weather and German U-boats and all.  Mrs. Elliot returned to England after she gave the children their Christmas presents.   Alistair said that other ships in their convoy were sunk, “We were attacked at night and I saw ships burning and heard the destroyers whooping rushing past us like Marine ambulances.”

In Palm Beach, the 3 were among many who saw the war come right to them.  In their case, for the second time.  “I saw ships burning on the horizon, in the Gulf Stream, as we were swimming – one time we got covered with oil that had floated in from a sunk tanker,” he said.

Alistair Elliot

Charles Merrill’s biographer, Langdon Hammer, said, Charles Merrill was moved by the heroism of the British… and was eager to do something for the war effort.  He welcomed the Elliot siblings as foster children, seeing not only to their safety, but to their upbringing and education.  He even hired them a governess, and a  British nurse named Jessie Love.”

Charles Merrill died at 70 on 7 October 1956, he would not be remembered for his generous hosting of the children, but as for creating a brokerage empire.  He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in W.Palm Beach, Florida.  Alistair Elliot wrote to honor his mother, “My mother was a heroine in her own unspoken way.  It had to be done, and she did it, was all she had to say.”

Charles Edward Merrill, 1885-1956

Condensed from an article by Eliot Kleinberg, Palm Beach Post, staff writer, but it can also be located in Stars and Stripes.

Click on images to enlarge and read captions.

#####################################################################################

Home Front Humor – 

“THE NEIGHBORS SAY SHE SOUNDS TOO MUCH LIKE AN AIR-RAID SIREN”

#####################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

John Dean Armstrong – Hutchinson, KS; US Navy, WWII, CBI, Lt., pilot

Charles Bell III – Mt. Pleasant, SC; US Army, Korea, 11th Airborne Division, West Point Class of 1950

Daniel Doyle – Sarasota, FL; US Army, Afghanistan, Major

Norman Fraser – North York, CAN; RC Navy, WWII

Don Hill – Troy, MI; US Army, WWII

Grant Iverson – Washington, UT; US Navy, WWII

Ray James – Sylvarina, MS; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pfc, F/2/8th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Philip LaForce – Oxford, MA; US Army, WWII, SSgt., POW, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

Archie Newell – Lemmon, SD; USMC, WWII, PTO, Pvt., 2nd Tank Battalion, KIA (Tarawa)

Calvin Wilhite Jr. – Memphis, TN; US Army, WWII, Sgt.

#####################################################################################

Advertisements

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 22, 2017, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 113 Comments.

  1. What an inspirational, fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a very inspiring and refreshing post GP!
    I love reading about people who are quiet yet honorable philanthropists.
    There are so many of them out there.

    Thanks for sharing this example 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great fascinating story gp, story’s like these are hard to find these days, as first hand accounts die out with age. Great to peruse other comments and see the contribution via other readers research.

    Like

  4. So many Heroes. And most unknown.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true. It is impossible for people like Pierre, the IHRA [and so many other], to have all the stories, but by telling about those unknown men, we hopefully teach just how strong and united this generation was to push forward.
      I appreciate your visits!!

      Like

  5. “Foyle’s War” was actually my first lesson of parents choosing to send their children to what they hoped would be safer locations. Did these children ever get reunited with their parents?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes they did. Alistair is a famous poet, his one sister went on to work in Africa (now deceased), and the other returned to the US and now lives in a nursing home in Ohio.

      Like

  6. So much heartache, heartbreak and heroism in a few words. Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an enthralling insight into an evacuee aspect I had not been aware of. I knew all about the ones sent to the English countryside, through a ‘William’ book, but hadn’t thought about those who would naturally have been sent overseas where this was possible.
    Tragically, it was out of the cooking-pot into the fire for some.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine it was, but the government project wanted the children to stay in the ‘Empire’. Thankfully the Elliot children were moved by a private program.

      Like

  8. This is a heartwarming story of war and life and all different kinds of courage. Wonderful post, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. An excellent story with the bad things and somethimes good things of war for some people

    Liked by 1 person

  10. oops – I may have lost my first comment (didn’t get a notice that it had posted) so I will add what may be another.

    I loved the sweet side of this bitter-sweet story – and am especially happy to read about someone doing more with his money than investing in making still more! Do you know why the mother returned to England – what she did during the war?
    xx,
    mgh

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I very much am glad to be reading your work again. This is a part of World War II history that I had never known before, thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was done to try and save them. Even Alistair Elliot mentioned this in the original article; he was scheduled to go to Africa. [he was given a choice of Canada, Australia or South Africa] But after that one ship was torpedoed, the government program was shut down. The Elliot children were put in US foster care through a private program. The British government, more and likely, was financially unable to at the end of the war to find and relocate the children sent out – afterward, records would have been lost or blown up from all the bombing. Hopefully those that wish to find their original families will accomplish their goals.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Tremendous piece as all your works are. The sacrifices made by all… remarkable testament to the human spirit

    Liked by 1 person

  13. A fascinating story, GP. All the various aspects of the war that most of us never learn about. Thank you for presenting this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. After the British realized that it had become too dangerous to be on any ship during the war they started to send their children away from the big cities, especially from London to the relative safety of small towns and villages in the north of the UK.The children in the novel ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C. S. Lewis were actually such children, who found refuge from the German bombing raids.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My dad was in an investment club when I was a kid, and I grew up hearing people talk about Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Beane (later Smith, I think) for years. How interesting to read this quite different tale from the family’s history. There are a lot of people today who profess to love humanity, while remaining quite unwilling to do anything for specific people. Mr. Merrill certainly didn’t have that problem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • He went out of his way for these children. He hired a governess, gave them violin lessons, took them on vacations, and even got Alistair some boxing lessons in case he was bullied back in England for sitting out the war in America. He did all that [obviously] without wanting any recognition for it. Thank you for your knowledge of the man.

      Like

  16. Wow, what a story! One of my favorite posts by you. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • More of a local interest article than straight out war, eh? I try to have something for everyone and a rounded-out variety to show what that world was really all about. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand some of the events when looking back with our 21st Century eyes. Thank you for commenting, Cindy!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I was evacuated for a short time to Somerset, and I can still recall watching German Bombers that had overflown London being caught up in searchlights, Don’t remeber seeing any shot down, so I assume there were none!
    I cannot recall seeing “Barrage Balloons” which were everywhere in the skies over where we lived in Barking Essex,
    I suppose they did do some good, probably not as much as my dad did on his ack-ack gun in the local park.
    There was conjecture after the war that the Jerries that kept flying West, were hoping to bail out over Eire/Ireland and stay in the safety of a neutral country ’til wars end.
    I have only good memories of my time in Somerset, others were not so lucky, my brothers chum Charlie, had the news broken to him by my mother, (who worked as a volunteer to visit the ‘vacuees’) that both his parents had been killed, Charlie was 7 at the time. He disappeared after that, might have been sent to Australia as a slave laborer, that happened! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a great man! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Excellent Story, GP. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I know someone whose three eldest siblings were evacuated and never came home. They liked their new families so much that they stayed with them. The next four siblings stayed in South Shields and grew up as a separate family. One day they met their elder brother and had no idea who he was. A sad and happy story!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. You share stories and help us remain optimistic xx

    Liked by 3 people

  22. The sacrifice of Mrs Elliot made for her children ranks with the bravery of every soldier in the field…

    Liked by 2 people

  23. A very kind gesture. I wish more rich people would do good things. They have the power to change the world for the better but so often prefer Mammon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We have a Millennial generation becoming adults now that many are calling the ‘greed generation’.
      [Jacqui Murray was asking if Alistair Elliot’s father survived the war, but I have been unable to locate any info on him. Any ideas, John?]

      Liked by 1 person

  24. My father in law and his siblings were some of the children evacuated to the country during the war. I will have to inquire about what it was like for them.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. They were so fortunate. My late mother in law was sent to a distant relative who was uncaring and cruel. Her mother and father were in Fraserburgh, a heavily bombed town in the far north east of Scotland. It is a fishing and processing port and the Germans were bombing the canning factories. I think it had one of the highest proportion of bombs per inhabitant in Scotland although Glasgow was very heavily hit in the shipyard areas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Such a shame your mother’s experience was so hard on her. The war had to be bad enough to endure. Not being as informed on the ETO as I should be, I had no idea that Scotland was hit so hard.

      Liked by 2 people

  26. I’ve never heard about that program. What a wonderful thing for Charles to do. I hope Mom survived…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Mom did survive and Alistair wrote poems to honor her. His father was alive when he left England, but the article does not mention him afterward and I have been unable to find anything on him at this point. Maybe one of our readers can answer that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • PS. I’m asking around about Alistair Elliot’s father – maybe we’ll get lucky!!

      Like

  27. The history of the blitz is iconic – but I had no idea of the carnage wrought by the V1 “buzzbombs” and V2 programs. The blitz caused around 90,000 casualties, the V’s resulted in a full third of that.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Fascinating. I’ve heard of children being sent to England from Germany on the kindertransport, but never of children being sent from England to the US.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. This is why I retain hope in people.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. A very moving story and lovely to read such a positive one. That was one brave lady to cross the Atlantic and then back again!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Informative article. Amazing how stories unfold. From heartache to heartfelt.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. A great story. I had no idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. How hard it must have been to separate yourself from your children. The toll of war really can’t be measured, can it?

    Liked by 2 people

  34. As Derrick said, many evacuees were desperately unhappy during the war, so it is cheering to read of the positive experience enjoyed by these three.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Great read, GP!
    Here’s a Merrill-related item that doesn’t have a connection to WWII. Charles Merrill (and his brokerage firm) had a large stake in the California-based Safeway supermarket chain. Safeway ran into trouble as a result of a price war in Texas. The Federal Trade Commission came down hard on Safeway, severely restricting their ability to compete. Charley Merrill installed his son-in-law, Robert Magowan, a former hosiery salesman at Macy’s Herald Square store in New York (!) as president of Safeway. Magowan led Safeway through some of its best years. Magowan’s son Peter joined Safeway as well – as a bag boy at a store at Lake Tahoe. Peter worked his way through the company. No doubt his rise was aided by the fact that he was a Magowan, but he wasn’t just simply handed jobs. Peter was an assistant store manager, store manager, district manager, division retail operations manager and division manager. In the early ’80s, he became Chairman of Safeway and remained their until the infamous leveraged buy-out (in response to a hostile take-over attempt) in the mid-’80s. Then Peter bought the San Francisco Giants baseball team. He is now retired from both Safeway and the Giants. Merrill Magowan, mentioned in the article, is Peter’s brother.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. What a great story and well told! Thank you for sharing these stories so they are not forgotten. So many people are impacted by war that the statistics don’t come close to counting. And I love you pictures – precious memories! Thank you for sharing ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Some children evacuated to other parts of UK had less positive experiences. This one was good to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  1. Pingback: The Weekly Headlines – My Daily Musing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: