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Man recalls expulsion at start of war

The little-known story of Bermuda's expulsion of German nationals at the outbreak of the Second World War has been revealed by a history group.

The war — which started 80 years ago today — led to the British authorities ordering Germans to leave the island after Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, made a radio announcement that the UK had declared war on the Nazis.

Andrew Bermingham, president of the Bermuda Historical Society, said Harry Stern, a German-American, who was on holiday in Bermuda with his family when the expulsion order was made, told his story to the society last month. Mr Stern, who was aged just eight in 1939, told the BHS that the events were “burnt into my memory”.

He added: “My father managed to get a seat on the last Pan American Airlines clipper to depart the island. The Monarch of Bermuda liner sailed September 13 for the three-day voyage to New York through the U-boat infested waters of the North Atlantic.

“A horse-drawn landau brought us to the dock on the morning of the 13th. My mother cautioned me not to speak German with our nanny once on board.”

Germany invaded Poland on September 1 which sparked the British declaration of war two days later.

A German submarine had torpedoed and sunk the British liner Athenia off the southwest coast of Ireland on the eve of Britain going to war.

A total of 18 of the 128 passengers lost were Americans.

Mr Stern, an 88-year-old antiquarian bookseller from Chicago, added The Monarch of Bermuda's portholes were sealed to keep the ship dark and passengers were mostly confined to the lower decks.

The Furness Bermuda Line's tourist cruises were halted in 1939 and did not resume until the end of the conflict.

Mr Bermingham said: “He was on holiday here with his parents, three brothers and his younger brothers' German nanny at the outbreak of the war.”

He added: “They were among the last passengers on that ship out of Bermuda.”

It was also the ship's last civilian run of the war as it was requisitioned as a troopship after it reached port in New York.

Mr Bermingham said: “There are many stories from that time. It's another that shows how lives changed on that day.”

A country too far: Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain, declares war on Nazi Germany on this date in 1939 (File photograph)

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Published September 03, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated September 03, 2019 at 7:56 pm)

Man recalls expulsion at start of war

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