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KCOM unveils plaque to commemorate wartime effort

Wednesday 29 November 2017

KCOM unveils plaque to commemorate wartime effort

A plaque to commemorate a pivotal moment in KCOM’s wartime history has been unveiled.

The blue plaque was revealed at a house in the leafy avenues of Newland Park, where Hull Telephone Department relocated its head office after its main exchange in Mytongate was bombed during the Hull Blitz of May 1941.

It was unveiled by Anne Read, the granddaughter of the department’s first general manager Thomas Holme, who led the organisation through two world wars between 1903 and 1945.

She said: “I have very few memories of my grandfather because he died when I was very young, but I do know he would have been made very happy by this.

“What I would most like to do is pay tribute to him and to the war time staff of Hull Telephone Department for the remarkable job they did in those dark days of 1941.

“The courage, bravery and determination they showed to keep the service going was truly remarkable and it’s wonderful that we can now honour them for all they did.

“That spirit of determination is present in KCOM, which continues Hull’s great tradition of doing things differently – and better – than anywhere else. That is something we should celebrate too.”

The property, called Rosedene - which is now a private home, served as the department’s HQ until the end of the war. It is believed the house was picked because it was considered far enough away from the city centre and docks not to be a target for the Luftwaffe.

Steve Robinson, who now owns Rosedene, said he had no idea of his home’s unusual history when he bought it.

Steve, a retired town planner, said: “I didn’t know the history of the house when I moved here seven-and-a-half years ago.

“And then I had a knock on the door from someone who was a friend of Angela Raby, who was writing a book on Thomas Holme, saying ‘I think your house used to be the HQ of Hull Telephone Department’.

“It was a bit of a surprise – but then a few things started to make sense; like the time I was having a new electricity board fitted and they quoted me for an industrial strength unit. They thought I was running a business from here.

“It’s a lovely place to live though and when they asked me if I’d have a plaque on the wall I was delighted. I think it looks great and it’s nice to celebrate the history of the house.”

Also attending the unveiling were former Hull Telephone Department employees who had worked at Rosedene – among them 92-year-old Ken Coultas who helped install the exchange at the house in what now is the living room.

Ken, said: “I was a boy doing a man’s job at the time because all the men were away in the army. Seeing this here today bring all the memories flooding back. I remember the switchboard had a direct line to the Guildhall – so they could report what the latest Blitz incidents.

Ken’s wife Iris Coultas also briefly worked at Rosedene as “a runner” delivering post and doing the accounts.

“I came here straight from school at the age of 16,” she says. “I have a lot of happy memories of those days.”