• CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London
  • CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London

‘Pampered Darlings’: The Story of Operation Union

Wives and children of British soldiers arrive in Germany, 1946

Wives and children of British soldiers arrive in Germany, 1946

Dr Daniel Cowling investigates the experiences of the first British families who moved to Germany after the Second World War as part of Operation Union.

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In August 1946, the SS ‘Empire Halladale’ docked at Cuxhaven in Germany. A parade of women in fashionable hats and stylish overcoats disembarked the ship, each laden with an assemblage of unwieldy bags and many carrying small children. As they stepped onto dry land, they could see before them a large banner which read, ‘Welcome to the British Zone’.

These were the first wives and children of serving British Army of the Rhine soldiers allowed to enter occupied Germany as part of Operation Union. 

Over the course of the next few months, several thousand British women and children took up residence in the towns and cities of north-west Germany, propelled into an extraordinary existence among the ruins of the Third Reich.

In this talk, Dr Daniel Cowling will recount the story of these intrepid civilians and their remarkable experiences of life in post-war Germany.

About Dr Daniel Cowling 

Daniel Cowling is a Historian at the National Army Museum with a particular interest in modern British and European history. He completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge, where he wrote a thesis on the British occupation of Germany. His first book, ‘Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans’, will be published by Head of Zeus in 2023.

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"First time @NAM_London today. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Thought the presentation & interpretation made the subject accessible..."