Frenchmen’s Good Turn at York!

This is the heart-warming true “Toy Story” about French servicemen at RAF Elvington who helped make Christmas very special for sick children in York during WWII.  The newspaper cuttings and photographs below were provided by Jean-Claude LEMARCHAND, a member of the RAF Association Sud-Ouest France Branch.  His father, André (right) was one of the French servicemen at RAF Elvington.

Transcript from the Yorkshire Post, probably Friday 29th December 1944


Frenchmen’s Good Turn at York

From Our Own Correspondent; YORK, Thursday

A French Air Force lieutenant, who noticed the L.N.E.R. Christmas tree for sick children while passing through York, had the happy inspiration of getting his friends to make Christmas toys for the sick children of the city’s institutions.

With his friends he rapidly got to work three days before Christmas, and, with waste material in workshops placed at their disposal, working day and night and often with such crude instruments as razor blades, they produced more than 200 magnificent toys by Christmas Day.

A lorry drew up outside the Mansion House at York today and the smiling Frenchmen started to unpack the toys. Before the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress (Councillor and Mrs H. C. de Burgh) and the City Sheriff (Councillor J. H. Kaye) could get their breath, the State Room was transformed into a toy store.

Every Type of Toy

Every imaginable type of toy, reminiscent of the days of peace, was there, each decorated with the Cross of Lorraine. These Frenchmen had not been toymakers in private life but had tried their hands at making playthings for their own children.

Officers offered prizes for the best types of toys. A large Normandie-type liner, made in two days and a night and guaranteed to float and stay watertight, won the first prize of a bottle of whisky. A swinging and lavishly upholstered doll’s cot, decorated with the Rose of Alsace in beaten metal, was a close second and won a bottle of gin. A fully furnished kitchen stove with every kind of cooking utensil took the third prize of two bottles of aperitif.

French Ingenuity

French ingenuity had been given full rein in making working-model toys, dolls’ houses, with complete suites of furniture and fires that really lit up; trains, ships, aerop0lanes, prams, scooters cradles, nursery chairs, monkeys on sticks, a completely dressed cowboy, blackboards and easels, jeeps, drums, and wheelbarrows, were just a few of the array.

The Lord Mayor thanked the Frenchmen for their happy thought, and undertook to distribute the toys to the children.

Click on any thumbnail for a full-size view …

Adjt Chef André LEMARCHAND
2-23 Guyenne, at
Meknes, June 1942