Maurice Myer Greenside Prince founded the Strand Cinema on the Pill in Bideford in 1938, where he later sheltered Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany.
Maurice Prince (1899–1991), who was of Jewish heritage, moved from west London to North Devon in the 1930s.
His love of the cinema led him to found the Strand Cinema on the Pill in Bideford in 1938, a year after he opened the Regal cinema on the Strand in Barnstaple.
He was also Devon’s Information Officer and a civil defence warden during the war.
In her book The Jews in North Devon during the Second World War (Tiverton, Halsgrove, 2005), Dr Helen Fry describes how Maurice helped Jewish refugees who were escaping from Nazi persecution. He sheltered them in the dressing rooms of his cinemas until they could find somewhere to live:
Because of the risk of public opposition, opinion being mixed on the question of German refugees, the work remained largely secret. It appears that, apart from his immediate family, only two people were told about his work – the chief projectionist at the Regal Cinema in Barnstaple, Joe Trapnell, who aided Maurice in this work, and his doctor. Mr Trapnell’s niece, Mary Curry, recounts:
“… I saw a lady holding the hand of a little girl. She wore a felt hat and feather. She was not local. Most women who came to market in the 1930s wore cloche or ‘flower-pot’ hats. Her hat and style was very different. That is when I was aware of people in the town who could speak no English. Mr Prince would give money to help them out. These must have been the German-Jewish refugees who were often around the town. Joe asked my mother to keep the matter secret, which we did. (Interview, July 2002)”
Maurice also befriended and supported the multicultural United States armed forces who were stationed at Bowden Green during the war.
Read an account of Maurice’s full story by volunteer researcher Louise Rands Silva here: