Wartime Wednesday: Requisitioned Homes
I was intrigued by the concept that homeowners in England could be forced from their property by the government during WWII. Most of the places taken were large country estates with acres of associated land. Sometimes as little as three days’ notice was given that the house was going to be used and the residents were required to vacate. Often there was a “cottage” on site where owners could live in for the duration of the war.
During my search for a setting, I discovered Hatfield House, located in Herefordshire, England.
The original Hatfield House was constructed in 1497 and was the childhood home and favorite residence of Queen Elizabeth I. When James I came to the throne, he didn’t like the property, so gave it to his minister, Robert Cecil, who promptly tore down three of the wings and used the bricks for the current home.
During WWI, the grounds were used to test the first British tanks. Trenches and craters were dug, and barbed wired strung to indicate German lines. Hatfield House also “did its bit” during WWII by serving as a hospital/Civil Resettlement Unit, a facility where returning British soldiers who had been POWs could learn to ease back into their families and society.
Emma O’Sullivan is one of the first female doctors to enlist after President Franklin Roosevelt signs the order allowing women in the Army and Navy medical corps. Within weeks, Emma is assigned to England to set up a convalescent hospital, and she leaves behind everything that is familiar. When the handsome widower of the requisitioned property claims she’s incompetent and tries to get her transferred, she must prove to her superiors she’s more than capable. But she’s soon drawn to the good-looking, grieving owner. Will she have to choose between her job and her heart?
Archibald “Archie” Heron is the last survivor of the Heron dynasty, his two older brothers having been lost at Dunkirk and Trondheim and his parents in the Blitz. After his wife is killed in a bombing raid while visiting Brighton, he begins to feel like a modern-day Job. To add insult to injury, the British government requisitions his country estate, Heron Hall, for the U.S. Army to use as a hospital. The last straw is when the hospital administrator turns out to be a fiery, ginger-haired American woman. She’s got to go. Or does she?
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