The lost history of Somerset's Second World War mixed-race babies

A Yeovil woman, who has been instrumental in bringing an untold Somerset story to the county as part of Black History Month, says there’s a long way to go to fight racism there.

Susann Savidge says she hopes the exhibition about children born to segregated black American soldiers and white British mothers during the second world war will help to educate people. The event forms part of Black History Month.

It is a story Susann has been desperate to tell - the Somerset babies born during the war who grew up facing racism and stigma. Susann, who is chair of the Somerset African Caribbean Network, has lived in the county since the 1970s.

Her father came to the UK from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. Whilst this isn’t her story, she says she sees parallels: "The stigma in some cases of illegitimacy, the undoubtedly racism and discrimination and always challenging our presence. There was no escaping that for either of those generations."

The soldiers and local women often met and struck up relationships at dances

The soldiers often met British women at dances - but when babies of mixed race were born there was open hostility. For nearly every child their father was a mystery - some were placed in children’s homes, and others were brought up by their mothers and white stepfathers.

The exhibition in Bridgwater, which ends on 21 October, is the result of meticulous research by Professor Lucy Bland, the author of a book on the subject.

She said: "I wanted to hear those stories and I managed to interview quite a number around the country. More and more are coming forward still. We have an online exhibition at something called The Mixed Museum and we're putting up those stories.

"It's extraordinary. I've unearthed this really untold history."

Dave Greene from Curry Rivel in Somerset met his birth father for the only time in 1999

It is history that lives on with people like Dave Greene from Curry Rivel. He met his birth father for the first and only time in 1999. He was brought up by his mother and his stepfather, who he still calls 'dad' to this day.

He said it was very hard for his mother: "People shouted out to her, particularly if she was with my father. There were things that were said that did actually stay in my mind - I guess it's the power of words.

"I believe that he (his birth father) wanted her to go to the States but - not a good idea, not back then."

Susann, who lives in Yeovil, says this history and far more black history needs to be told in Somerset, an overwhelmingly white county.

She said: "It does seem very stuck and we need to do more of it.

"I think we owe our children and our young people growing up an opportunity to know about a wider world than Somerset."

Whilst the exhibition is on for a short time in Bridgwater, it lives on at the online Mixed Museum.