Women in Kitchener camp

From September 1939 when war broke out, a single change must have made an extraordinary difference for a short time at Kitchener transit camp, Richborough.

From 5th September (Ungerson, p. 142; see also the document below) it is estimated that around 200 women entered the camp – and all are thought to have been wives of the Kitchener men.

This change took place because when war was declared city school children were evacuated to the countryside, and these wives had been living in and around Sandwich, in homes that now needed to provide rural spaces of safety for the nation’s youngsters. Hence, for a short time, the women moved into Kitchener with their husbands.


In fact, the women were largely kept separate from the men, being housed in a separate area of the camp with the few children who came with them. This area was divided from the men’s camp by a wire fence. There were visiting hours, but these were only for about an hour a day, although presumably couples could chat through the fence.

Curiously, we are not really hearing from descendant families about these women – but we would love to know more, so if your mother, aunt, or grandmother was in Kitchener, even if only for a very short time, please do let us know – and, as ever, a photograph from around these years would be wonderful. It’s always so good to put a face to a name.

Meanwhile – wherever you are living – here’s to International Women’s Day.

And some pictures below show a few of the women we know about who were in Kitchener camp, albeit briefly, in 1939.

Kitchener camp 1939, Herbert Finkelstein
Frieda and Fritz Nowak, Kitchener camp, 1939
Kitchener camp 1939, Herbert Finkelstein
Erna and Herbert Finkelstein outside Hut 8, Kitchener camp
Walter Brill, Kitchener camp 1939
Walter Brill, Irmgard Brill (geb. Levy), and son Winston J. Brill
Kitchener camp, Erna Finkelstein, Alien's card, 5 May 1939
Kitchener camp, Erna Finkelstein, Alien’s card, 5 May 1939