In the first month of 1940, during a particularly hard winter, young Günter Stern arrived by steam train into the town of Lydney in Gloucestershire. Only five months earlier he had arrived in England on a Kindertransport, fourteen years old with only one small suitcase. His guardians, the Free family of Birmingham, secured him a place at Yardley Grammar School, only to find the school evacuated to Lydney before he could even begin his education. So began three years in a classroom, on the playing fields and walking in the Forest. The boy from the Rhineland is to this day indebted to the wonderful people of Lydney, particularly Eddie and Doris Allsopp, who took him into their hearts and made the boy into the man who become Joe Stirling less than a year later.
I am delighted to say that in April next year I will be taking the boy back to Lydney. Not the real one, sadly at 91 he will not travel that far, but his biography, Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future. His story of life before Lydney, the people and places in Lydney which shaped the rest of his life, his future once he left there for ever. The photographs that reveal so much. I have been invited by Lydney Town Council to be a part of their Annual Town Meeting, give a short presentation and display the book for their interest. It will be a pleasure.
Photos show the house in Springmeadow where Gunter lodged with the Allsopps, and Lydney station where he would have arrived, excited but nervous, about to start his education.