Celebrating some of Saltaire's Second World War Veterans

On the 8th of May 1945 the Allies accepted the Nazi’s unconditional surrender which ended the Second World War in Europe. It marked the end of a 6 year conflict, during which time men and women showed resilience in unprecedented circumstances and worked to help the war effort. On the 77th anniversary of VE Day we are looking at three men who had served during the war and had connections to Saltaire.

Donald Hanson

Donald Hanson photo

Donald Hanson was born on the 5th of January 1925 in Slaithwaite. In 1938 when Britain was preparing for war, he volunteered to be part of the air raid precaution team for his area. The volunteers were given instructions on what to do in case of an air raid, how to deal with incendiary bombs, and instructions on different gases they may encounter. Once the war started, they had some call outs, most notably the ‘baby blitz’ on Huddersfield on 21st March 1941. 

In 1939, at the age of 14, Donald became a junior in the cashier office of the Globe Worsted Company, he enrolled at St James night school and two years later won a scholarship to Huddersfield Technical College (now the university). Due to the war and conscription some of the senior clerks at Globe were called up so Donald had an opportunity to advance his career by taking on responsibilities that would not have been possible in normal times. 

In 1940 Donald joined an Air Training Corps (ATC) Squadron in Slaithwaite and was a member for two and a half years before being called up for the Royal Navy in 1943 where he reported to HMS ‘Royal Arthur’ in Skegness. Donald then joined other recruits for training at HMS ‘President V’ for ‘indoctrination into the complexities of Naval accounting’. After successfully completing the twelve week course Donald travelled back to HMS ‘Victory’ and Portsmouth barracks where he spent 3 weeks getting used to naval disciplines. When given the opportunity to pick his posting Donald selected destroyers and was posted to the base at Scapa Flow, the major base for the home fleet.

Donald felt that his service in the navy was beneficial to the way he conducted himself through his career as it taught him many qualities and when he left the service in August 1946, he felt he was a better man than when he reported to the ‘Royal Arthur’ aged 18.

Donald was demobbed in August 1946 and reported back to the managing director of Globe Worsted Company. He worked up from being cashier to becoming director in 1955 and then managing director of Globe in 1958 when he was 33 years old. Donald held various positions in the Illingworth, Morris and Co. Ltd. including taking over the combing and spinning department of Salts Mill in Saltaire in 1967. In 1970 Donald was made a director of the Illingworth, Morris Group and was appointed a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. In 1973 he was invited to become a Companion of the British Institute of Management, in 1977 he was awarded the Silver Jubilee Medal by Queen Elizabeth II and in 1982 he was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture and Commerce. Donald travelled extensively for his work to places including Japan, South Africa and India. Between 1968 and 1981 he served twice on the Wool Textile Economic Development Council. 

As Donald neared his retirement he decided to step down as Chairman of Illingworth, Morris after presenting a greatly improved balance sheet for the year ending March 31st, 1982, where there had been a reduction, from the previous year, in group borrowings of £6 million. He retired from his involvement in the Textile Industry in 1985 but continued working after being appointed as a Non-Executive Director for Bradford and Bingley Building Society in 1981, eventually becoming Chairman. 

With thanks to Maggie Smith from the Saltaire Collection for the information.


Feliks photo

Born 4th June 1920 in Lakorz, Poland Feliks joined the Polish Cadets to train as a civil engineer - he was stationed at Wilno in Northeast Poland when Germany invaded.

At only 19 years old Feliks and a group of other men decided to cross into Lithuania, which was still neutral, where they were placed in a temporary camp between September 1939 and July 1940.

In June 1940 the Russians invaded Lithuanian and the NKVD (Stalin’s Intelligence Agency)  made the men march to the nearest railway station. Feliks and the men were loaded onto trains and travelled through Molodeczno to Babynino, at this point Feliks and his fellow prisoners began to receive censored mail from their families in Poland which hinted at the massive amount of German troops on the Russian border. With these rumours came the news that the men were going to be transported elsewhere in Russia, Feliks boarded a train on his 21st birthday - it was the worst day of his life!

Feliks and the men were put on a boat called the Clara Zetkin and their first day at sea was the day Germany invaded Russia (22 June 1941). Eventually Feliks and the men arrived in Archangel on the white sea, they were put on a train and began to travel south - ‘we didn't know it but this was our first step to becoming free men’. 

The train travelled for a few days and eventually arrived in Dzhalal Abad in Russian Turkestan where they had military training and realised they were now in the Polish Army under General Anders. In August 1942 the men were moved to Iraq where they spent a year being reorganised on British army lines and received British arms. They were eventually sent to the allied front in the south of Italy, landing first in Taranto. After many casualties the Polish army took the heights of Monte Cassino and then continued to fight all the way to Rimini. Feliks and the rest of the troops heard that Bologna had been captured and this marked the end of the Italian campaign of the Second World War. 

As the Polish soldiers moved to Bologna, they knew that 'as organised Polish troops we would not be able to return to Poland’. Feliks said that he ‘listened on the radio to news of the debates in the British parliament about what to do with us’. A Polish college was established in Bologna so Feliks and the other men could re-start their education.

In 1946 Feliks and his group were transported on the ‘Empire Pride’ to the UK where they landed in Liverpool. In the summer of 1947, a friend of Feliks heard of jobs for experienced textile workers in Bingley, West Yorkshire. Feliks lodged in Manningham and worked the night shift at Ebor mills for 18 months. Feliks then got a job as a weaver at Salts Mill, Saltaire. He worked there until he retired in 1982. Feliks met an English girl at a dance hall in Victoria Hall who he later married, and they had two sons, one born in 1952 and the other in 1956. Feliks returned to Poland with his eldest son in 1959 where he was reunited with his parents at the railway station in Lipnicki.

With thanks to Maggie Smith from the Saltaire Collection for the information.

Frank Senior

Frank Senior photo

Frank Senior was born in 1918 and spent his early childhood in Saltaire. During the general depression and periods of labour strike action of the 1920’s Frank's dad was out of work for 4 years and during the 1930s things were hard and the family could barely afford the house they rented in Saltaire for 4 shillings a week. When Frank turned 12, he started delivering morning and evening newspapers to help his family financially. 

In the 1930’s Frank began working in packing in the basement of Salts Mill, after two months he moved to working in the gatehouse of the Mill as he thought it would lead to an apprenticeship. After two years in the gatehouse Frank moved to the Enquiry Office and then to the general office as ‘The Bradford Messenger’ where, to save on postage for delivering invoices, he was sent to Bradford by train and spent the day delivering invoices by foot. Frank then got a job learning textile design during which time he took the Textile Institutes Ordinary National Course which covered all aspects of being a textile designer including textile machinery, textile calculations, textiles mechanics, textile weaving, design, and colours. In 1938 Frank moved to the costings department, where he stayed for the rest of his years at Salts Mill.

From 1937 the Nazi party was becoming prominent in Germany and when the government introduced conscription in peace time Frank registered and expressed a desire to join the Royal Air Force. He was called for a medical and passed for the RAF in November 1939, whilst waiting to report for duty Frank continued working at Salts Mill until 23rd May 1940 when he went to Padgate in Cheshire for basic training. After this Frank went on to serve 4 years and 2 months continuous service with the RAF in Egypt, he left home on Saturday 9th November 1940 and did not return until Friday 12th January 1945. He served the rest of his war service at an RAF station in East Yorkshire before being demobbed on 31st March 1946.

During the war Frank had corresponded regularly with a woman he had met whilst working at the Mill called Ilma, they were married on the 11th of June 1945. After finishing his war service Frank returned to Salts Mill, they had retained returning service personnel in their employment, so Frank settled back into his job in the costing department eventually becoming head of the department. 

Frank retired in 1983 after a long career within Salts Mill, he started as a packing boy and left as the head of the Department for Costing. During his time as head of department he implemented various changes including renting a telex machine from the General Post Office in order to help with communication between the department and wool suppliers around the world. 

With thanks to Maggie Smith from the Saltaire Collection for the information.

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