Vyger Irish Genealogy

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GRACEY - THE SECOND WORLD WAR

MAXIMA debetur pueris reverentia.

IT IS SOMETIMES said that the Second World War began with the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in the autumn of 1938. For the Save the Children Fund the war-time alignment of forces began to take shape towards the end of 1937. When Mr L. B. Golden retired from the post of general secretary after eighteen years' service, there was appointed as his successor a man who had already served the Fund for several years as overseas delegate, Captain George F. Gracey. As a younger man Gracey had been an industrial missionary to the Armenians. After ten years in this vocation, he was caught in the maelstrom of the First World War, saw service on the terrain and among the people with which his missionary work had made him familiar, was given the rank of captain and later, in recognition of his services, the D.S.O. After the war he returned to missionary work as secretary of the Friends of Armenia Missionary and Relief Society. He "took over" at a difficult period in the Save the Children Fund's history, and to his new work he brought that missionary zeal which is one of his out-standing qualities. Clouds of war were already darkening the political horizon, and the Save the Children Fund, in common with most voluntary societies, was beginning to experience a falling-off in income. Consolidation and economy were called for, and Captain Gracey bent his energies to the promotion of those virtues.

But he had not long to wait before opportunity called for a policy of expansion. The Nazi invasion of the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, and the flight of great numbers of the people into the interior of the republic, was the occasion of the opening of a relief fund by the Lord Mayor of London, who in his broadcast on October 7, 1938, referred to the co-operation of the Save the Children Fund and the British Red Cross in the relief measures which were being organised in Prague. The Save the Children Fund's chief administrator was Mr H. W. H. Sams, whose service in the Russian famine and in Albania has been recorded. By invitation of the Lord Mayor, Mr Sams was also appointed a member of the Committee in Prague which was set up by the British Minister. The Save the Children Fund, already remembered in Czechoslovakia for its relief and reconstruction work after the First World War, compassed a notable new achievement in the service of its children.

Within a year Poland had been invaded and Britain was at war with the invader. The Save the Children Fund was powerless to do anything for the child victims of war in Europe, though in the United Kingdom and in Eire hundreds of children who had fled from the peril of persecution in "Grossdeutschland" during the past four or five years were still benefiting from the help given by the Fund in finding them homes and schools.