Rachel Dhonau

1909-1987

Rachel Dhonau [née Copland], a Mass Observation diarist between 1941 and 1942, was born on 3 October 1909 in Melton Constable.

Rachel’s mother, Maud Helen Copland, had been a lady’s maid and her father, Leonhard Piechowicz, a chauffeur who had emigrated from Aachen, Germany and became a naturalised British citizen in 1909.  Leonhard died in 1915, and Rachel and Maud lived with Maud’s parents in Sheringham.

Rachel obtained a degree in English from Bedford College, University of London, graduating in 1931, after which she trained at Oxford to be a teacher.

Rachel married Ernest Ben Dhonau, known as Jakob, and of German extraction, on 7 January 1935. They first lived in London where they had their first son, Timothy who was born on 6 February 1937, then, from mid 1937, they lived for two years in Paris where Jakob was employed as a translator.  With war imminent, the family returned to London where they lived until late 1940.  At the start of the Blitz, they move to back to Rachel’s family in Sheringham, and Jakob joined up as a private.

In mid 1941 Rachel joined the Mass-Observation programme and became a volunteer contributor. Mass-Observation was established in 1937, with the mission to try to understand the everyday behaviour and attitudes of the population. Rachel also took up a clerical position in Sheringham Food Office which administered the wartime food regulations in 1941, then in 1942 was a teacher in Norwich.

Her death is registered in August 1987, when she was aged 77, in the Civil Registration district of North Walsham.

Find out more: Norfolk Record Society Vol LXVIII  2004 available at the Norfolk Record Office and Norfolk Heritage Centre.

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