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Family history: waiting for the eureka moment

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Cat Whiteaway Cat Whiteaway | 09:45 UK time, Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Last year I received a plea for help which tugged at my heart. Tanya Roberts emailed to say:

"During the war my family in Nantymoel had an evacuee from London, a little boy called Stanley Cordish (unsure of spelling). He had to leave us as his parents decided to send him to America for safety. Stanley always said he was going to come back but he never did. We heard that a ship had gone down and wondered if Stanley was on it. My mother loved Stanley and always wondered what had happened to him."
Photograph of Stanley Kodish as a teenager

Stanley as a teenager

My first thought was to determine whether Stanley had been on board the fated City of Benares, which was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 77 children. An email to the Evacuees Reunion Association (ERA) was quickly replied to with incredible detail. This was the reply:

"I have checked in the book The Absurd And The Brave; its appendix lists the names of those lost in the City of Benares disaster. I could not find any reference to Stanley Cordish, neither is he listed in the names of survivors. A total of 12 ships sailed to Canada carrying Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) evacuees. I have also checked the list of evacuees who arrived safely at Canada on those ships, but could not find a Stanley Cordish"

Although this had confirmed that Stanley had not been sent to Canada, it brought more potential complications since I now knew that the Government's scheme known as CORB evacuated children to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, but not to the United States!

Photograph of Stanley Kodish aged 10

Stanley aged 10

I began to wonder whether Stanley had attended school whilst in Nantymoel and a visit to the gleaming and spacious Glamorgan County Archives revealed that, while plenty of other local schools had deposited their attendance registers with the archives, this was not the case for Nantymoel.

According to ERA, if Stanley had been evacuated via the Government's evacuation scheme, Operation Pied Piper, then it was just possible that the billeting officer's register for that area still exists. If it does it should be held at the relevant County Record Office or main public library, and would have Stanley's name, date of birth, home address, parents name, foster parents name and address as well as the date he left and where he went.

But luck was not on my side that day. The register had not survived so I decided to take a step back and sent emails to the local library in Nantymoel and the local junior school.

At this point I was asked to give an update while appearing on BBC Radio Wales' Jamie and Louise programme. The listeners often seem to have that knack of solving a problem.

And so it was that I received an email from Norma who said that she happened to be listening last time I was the radio talking about the search for Stanley.

That night Norma attended a meeting of the Ogmore Valley History and Heritage Society, after which she bought a CD which contained the local school admissions registers. Here's what she told me:

"I don't know if you are still looking for information on Stanley but a Stanley Kodish (not CORDISH) attended Nantymoel junior school from 20/5/1940 until 31/7/1940," she said. "His date of birth is given as 12/9/1930 and he was staying with a J Roberts at 21 Oakfield Terrace"

Thanks to the kindness of Norma's heart, and of this small yet dedicated local history group, this was the eureka moment I'd been waiting for. Now that I had the correct spelling of the surname and the year of birth I was quickly able to trace Stanley's birth and then his marriage to Gillian in 1962.

And, although I was able to locate Gillian on the electoral register there was no sign of Stanley living at the address.

Gillian answered my letter confirming that Stanley had sadly died in 2007 but that they had enjoyed a long and happy marriage together.

So, only one final question remains. This time posed by Stanley's widow Gillian Kodish who kindly sent me a photograph of Stanley at school (he's sitting right at the back).

Is this Nantymoel junior school and, if so, can anyone name the other children? Please leave a comment below if you can help.

stanley at school

Stanley at school

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