We've Had Our Own European Community Here For Years (26 January 1973)
The possibility that foreign workers may come to take up jobs in the new city of Milton Keynes has a very old familiar ring about it.
Ever since that war, foreign workers have been settling in the district, sometimes in not-inconsiderable numbers.
We have absorbed Poles, Latvians, Estonians, Italians, Pakistanis, Hungarians, even Russians. Could the brickworks in particular have carried on without them? It is the hallmark of a civilised people that they can take a joke, so they will know what I mean when I say that at one time there were so many of them at the brickworks I could have sworn that at least one chimney was beginning to lean towards Pisa.
But first were the gallant Poles, the people who if guts had had anything to do with it would have crushed Hitler with one hand while demolishing Stalin with the other. After their inevitable defeat thousands of their young men trekked enormous distances to join us. After that, well, their war record tells its own tale.
After the war, these Poles, what was left of them, could not go back to their own country. Officially they were “white” and Poland was now “red.” So a considerable number were encamped and demobbed at Great Horwood. From there they began to take all kinds of jobs in the surrounding area.
Just then Bletchley badly needed a stoker for its old gasworks and it was a Pole who had married an English girl who saved the situation. He had been a law student but he was one of those who had not only trekked to fight again with the Polish army but had also been sent over to Paris to serve with the resistance movement.
When the gasworks closed he went to the brickworks. His Polish name, I believe, meant Andrew’s son, but he changed it to Andrews later. I have been proud to get to know such ex-foreigners during the course of my work.
Talking about Poles, there was also a North Bucks epilogue to that heroic and horrific affair, the Warsaw Rising. The rising was led by a “white” general-in-hiding whose name I am ashamed to have forgotten for the moment.
At any rate he escaped to this country and after the war lived a quiet life in a London suburb.
But he used to enjoy a spot of rabbit-shooting and had a friend in North Bucks. One day, in a field at Woughton, the Hero of Warsaw was found dead of a heart attack.
But of course the most notable “foreigner” who came to this country during the war and made an impact on North Bucks is our erstwhile MP Mr. Robert Maxwell.
He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1923, the son of Mr. Michael Hoch, a farm worker, and his wife, Ann. But when he made his first public appearance in this district it was to fight in the 1959 general election as Captain Ian Robert Maxwell MC.
He had only a few weeks’ campaigning time ahead and there was much curiosity – to say the least – about this Czech who had joined the British army and had been commissioned and awarded the MC by the time he was 22.
Five or six years ago a man I had known for some time told me he had actually been in action with Mr. Maxwell in France. Roughly, his story, which has not hitherto been published, went like this:
“I hadn’t been in Bletchley a very long time when I was advised to see my MP at one of his surgery sessions. When I got there I looked hard at this man at the table and he looked hard at me.
“’I reckon I know you’, he said.
“’And I reckon I know you.’ I said. ‘You are my old sergeant major whatever-that-name-was’.
“’Well, I am now your MP and my name is now Maxwell, so how can I help you?’ he said.
“I told him my business and he helped me alright. I will say this: he was real hot stuff in the army, much too hot for mamma’s little boy.”
“So I am not a bit surprised that he was commissioned, left our mob and got the MC later.” I shall not give my informant’s name without his say-so.