Grindleton’s refugee who stayed for life

Axel Buxbaum enjoying a birthday treat on the East Lancs Railway. (s)
Axel Buxbaum enjoying a birthday treat on the East Lancs Railway. (s)
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A German refugee who made his home in the Ribble Valley after he was sent here during the Second World War has died a month short of his 90th birthday on VE day.

Axel Buxbaum (known as Alec) arrived in Grindleton as a 14-year-old boy having been brought from Berlin by the German organisation Kindertransport prior to the outbreak of the war.

The UK took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Poland who were placed in British foster homes, schools and farms.

Riversmead in Grindleton (now Bowland High School) was a home for refugees which was run by nuns who initially had great difficulty communicating with their young charges as none of them spoke English. Alec was one of the 75 boys who arrived at the school. Along with the nuns, they became like a big family, but went their separate ways after the war ended. Alec was the exception who stayed and spent most of the rest of his life in Grindleton.

Having had no contact with his parents during the war, it later transpired that his father was take to a concentration camp and although he was released, died before his son got to see him again. Alec was reunited with his mother in 1953 after the war had ended.

Alec married local girl Doris in 1944 and shortly after, they became parents to John and Alison. He worked as a mechanic, taxi and ambulance driver and also drove long distance lorries.

Quick witted, Alec had a talent for mending all sorts, from cars to jewellery, cuckoo clocks and even washing machines.

Also a railway enthusiast, Alec had a large electric train set laid out at his home for more than 50 years and was delighted to drive a steam train on the East Lancs railway as part of his 80th birthday celebrations.

Alec loved travelling and went back to Germany many more times throughout his life, the last time being in 2008 as a guest of the German government, who were unveiling a memorial to Kindertransport.

After losing Doris in 2006, Alec met his companion Judith five years ago, who, his family said, gave him a “new lease of life”.