Second World War soldiers were cared for at Wellingborough convalescence home

The Free French Convalescent Home for soldiers. 'Wellingborough
The Free French Convalescent Home for soldiers. 'Wellingborough

What is now the Railway Club in Broad Green, Wellingborough, was once a convalescent home for injured soldiers during the Second World War.

The woman whose mother ran the establishment recently re-visited the town.

Pauline Genu (nee Mitchell) spoke to the Northamptonshire Telegraph about her return to Wellingborough.

Mrs Genu, 89, originally came to live in the town as a teenager with her parents and her five brothers and sisters in 1940.

The Mitchells, who are French, initially housed evacuees at their Spring Hill House home.

But Mrs Genu’s mother, Jeanne Mitchell, a military nurse, later established The Free French Convalescent Home for soldiers.

Mrs Mitchell, or Lieutenant to use her correct military title, was later awarded the Croix de Guerre for her work.

At the convalescent home they cared for about 36 injured soldiers during the four years in which the home was open.

The home’s bedrooms were lined with bunk beds in which the soldiers recovered from their injuries, Mrs Genu recounted.

She remembered the bed-rooms to be extremely large.

Mrs Genu said: “It was a house when we came to live there in 1940. We moved there from London – I was 17 years old.

“My mother was French and she was a military nurse.

“Through the four years that it remained open, we looked after 36 soldiers of all nationalities.

“The Wellingborough home closed in 1944. My mother had thought the war was over for her, but it wasn’t.

“She was sent over to France where she worked as an Army nurse.”

The family all had strong military connections. Mrs Mitchelle was one of the first women to join the French army.

Mrs Genu’s brothers, aged 11 to 13 when the war first began, were stationed in Indonesia, France and Malta when it eventually ended.

Mrs Genu and her sister Therese both married French soldiers who had stayed in the convalescent home in a double wedding held at Our Lady’s Church in Wellingborough in March 1942.

The work done at the The Free French Convalescent Home was valued so highly that General Charles de Gaulle and the Duchess of Gloucester visited.

After 1944 the whole family moved to France after the liberation, where they still live.

Mrs Genu recently made the pilgrimage back to her one-time home town with her daughter Claudine Briand and her grandson Antione Briand.

She had only previously returned to the site of her former home once before this recent trip.

During her time in the town she also visited Wellingborough Museum, but she did not return to the Railway Club.

On her last trip to the town she found the building to be so different to how she remembered it that she didn’t want to return again.

Mrs Genu said: “There was six big trees on the front lawn and all that was cemented over.”

The work done by the 
Mitchells during the war was recently celebrated in their native France with an exhibtion about the family.

Anyone who would like to get in contact with Mrs Genu can email her at pauline.genu@
organse.fr or clbriand@club-internet.fr. She is keen to hear from anyone who has memories of the home.