April 17, 2003

Ford of Canada remembered for housing British kids in WWII

Windsor, Ontario – Peter Horlock was 13 years old in 1940 when his dad, a Ford employee in England, told him the company had arranged safe haven for him in Canada. As he embarked from Liverpool, Peter joined scores of Ford “war children” sent to escape the war’s perils in England.

On Wednesday, more than six decades later, Horlock reunited with other “war children” at the University of Windsor, where a brief ceremony marked the extraordinary event. Original documents and an oral history were presented to the University’s archives and to Ford of Canada.

Relocating 123 British children, most of Ford employees, to Windsor during World War II was the brainchild of Ford of Canada president Wallace Campbell. At one point, 23 visiting children were living in the Campbell household alone, while another 100 lived with Ford families and others in Windsor and surrounding communities.

University of Windsor Archivist Dr. Brian Owens said: “Sparing children from the brutality of war ranks very high on a scale of corporate humanitarianism. It is our intention to preserve this unique piece of Ford’s and Canada’s history for generations to come.”

The children brought to Canada ranged in age from four to 14. By the time most of the children returned to England, they were speaking with Canadian inflection instead of their original British accents. The children excelled in Windsor schools, learned to skate in winter, reveled in Canadian comic strips and worried they would not be able to pick out their real parents from the crowds awaiting them when they returned to England, reported the Windsor Star’s Tom Brophey at the time.

Connect with Autos.ca