A Knight’s Tale (52: My Secondment)

Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass, also called the November pogrom, was an onslaught of violent attacks against Jewish persons and property carried out by the Nazi Party’s Sturmabteilung paramilitary forces along with civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening as a clear Indication of what was to come was sent to the world.

Those who could, and had the foresight for it, sent their children to safety on The Kindertransport, an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. 

One such child was ten year old Wolf Blomfield who was never again to see his father, believed to have perished in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was many years before he was to reconnect with his mother, who had escaped to Australia, an aunt and a cousin, all severely traumatised.

Sometime in 1968 I had been granted places on two Social Work training courses. I accepted the Croydon College offer on the strength of the insightful and challenging interview of the course director who I later found had spent the last years of his childhood in a series of foster homes; had worked in a care home; and was a trained and practicing psychoanalyst. This was the same Wolf Blomfield who was to teach me much and to become

a lifelong friend until his death in April 2017.

Veronica Rivett, my delightful mother-in-law dropped everything and crossed London to collect and look after Matthew on the morning in 1969 that Jackie was hospitalised with meningitis.  This was the day I was due to begin my Social Work training course at Croydon Colleges.  Jackie had been ill for a fortnight and her head was so bad that morning that we called the GP who, within seconds, diagnosed the condition and arranged for hospital admission.  This meant care had to be arranged for Michael, then five and attending school. A neighbour with a son at the school took on the task of transporting Michael to and from that venue.

Matthew himself had German measles at the time and his Nan took him to her bed; and when Jackie was back home but still unwell, Helen and Bill came to stay with us for a short while to continue the care.

When, having missed the morning, I arrived at Croydon on that first afternoon of my secondment the concerned Wolf and Margaret Granowski, my excellent allocated tutor, were waiting for me in the foyer. This was certainly confirmation that I had made the right choice.

That was the beginning of a boom time in Social Work when training could be funded by secondment on full salary in return for which we were bound to stay with our employer for two years afterwards. Now in the 21st century I believe that would-be trainees are required to pay for themselves.