The early life of a former Saltney Town and Flintshire county councillor features in an exhibition about orphans evacuated to Ireland during the war.
Klaus Armstrong-Braun, 75, from Broughton, was one of nearly 1,000 young children from Germany, Austria and France sent to the Emerald Isle at the end of the war as part of Red Cross initiative Operation Shamrock.
In 2013 Klaus attended an emotional gathering of surviving evacuees hosted by the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in County Wicklow, Ireland.
The event led to a project entitled ‘The Children from Operation Shamrock’ by journalist Monica Brandis, assisted by photographer Sidharta Corral and graphic designer Frank Lietz, telling the early experiences of 14 of the evacuees.
Glencree and Berlin have so far hosted the exhibition which features photographs and interviews with some of the ‘children’, many of whom are now well into their 80s and were fostered and adopted by Irish families.
Next year it will go on display in Cologne and at Theatr Clywd, Mold, in May 2017.
Klaus says the thought-provoking exhibition raises issues around ‘the folly of war’ but also the psychological problems facing young evacuees who ‘feel lost’ in terms of their identity as they don’t know where they belong.
The subject is as relevant today as at any time, says Klaus, given the number of refugees and orphans fleeing war zones like Syria.
Klaus was born in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1940 to a Polish mother and a German father with the Second World War raging around him.
He never knew his father who went off to fight the Russians and is believed to have been killed at the Battle of Stalingrad.
His mother was forced to get a job on the railways in Essen and Klaus was put into care while she battled to make ends meet.
She slept in the station and one night was tragically blown up by an Allied bomb.
The orphan Klaus was then shipped off to neutral Ireland by the Red Cross as a refugee.
There he was safe from the bombs but was passed from place to place and from family to family and didn’t know what it meant to grow up in a loving and stable environment.
However, the Armstrong family, from whom he takes half his surname, were a notable exception, and he still talks with fondness of the man he called ‘Daddy Armstrong’, who has long since passed away.
At the age of 14 Klaus was shipped to Chester and to the Barnado’s residential home at Boughton Hall which in recent years was sold off and transformed into retirement flats where he and another former resident were invited to a fete in 2010 as guests of honour.
Klaus, a former Green Party member, believes his early experience shaped his environmental and political outlook.
He said: “I have always been for the underdog and anybody who needs help and the environmental side of things comes from my days on the farm in Ireland with Daddy Armstrong.”