Following the upheaval of the First World War and Russian Revolution, many Europeans sought to leave their countries and start a new life in America.

Before 1914 there was largely free movement of people around the world as America welcomed new people to help grow its economy.

In Albert Road, Southampton, John Doling’s emigrant lodging house catered for this need. However, US policy changed in the early 1920’s with strict new quota laws.

Daily Echo: Atlantic Park Hostel.

From November 1919 Eastern European emigrants, including many Ukrainian Jews, began to arrive in Southampton. These trans-migrants were forced to wait outside in the Canute Road area in all weathers to board their onward ships.

In 1924, 980 had even reached Ellis Island in New York and been turned back.

The shipping companies Cunard, White Star, Canadian Pacific Railways and Oceanic Steamship Navigation had sold the tickets and had responsibility.

They purchased what was from July to November 1918 the American Navy Air Force aerodrome and supply base at Wide Lane, Eastleigh. It had been built by First World War German prisoners of war on meadow land once attached to North Stoneham Farm. This is where in 1910, Eric Moon had flown his Moonbeam Mark II monoplane. He developed it in the Wool House, today The Dancing Man Brewery.

Daily Echo: Atlantic Park Hostel.

In 1921, the hangars were turned into dormitories, dining rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms. There was a telephone system and electricity.

Private quarters and cooking facilities were provided for families. There were separate dormitories for men and women.

The Hostel had 150 permanent staff, including a matron, medical officer, engineer and 4 language interpreters. The kitchens could supply up to 300 gallons of soup a day for around 2,000 people.

Atlantic Park was opened in the spring of 1922, probably the biggest trans-migratory camp in the world. The first manager of the Camp was Mr Frank Johnson, who even taught some to play cricket.

Daily Echo: Atlantic Park Hostel.

Although the objective of the camp was to provide short term accommodation to those passing through Southampton, the United States quota restrictions meant that some trans-migrants were at the hostel for much longer than the expected few months. Many were unable to continue with their trip or return to their home country. Some remained for up to seven years.

The camp became a small town with its own school, a medical centre, a synagogue, shops, and facilities for recreation. There was a newsletter in Yiddish and a library containing books in languages such as Polish, German and Russian. The migrants were not confined to camp and could move around the local area.

The trans-migrants formed football teams and played local sides. Some participated in local events such as the Eastleigh Carnival, presenting themselves as frustrated migrants trying to get to America.

A young Jewish Ukrainian and a non Jewish Russian met and married in 1924. No one would accept their marriage and he left the camp to commit suicide a mile away.

Daily Echo: Atlantic Park Hostel.

In February 1925, Lady Swaythling of nearby Townhill Park House, wrote a letter to President Coolidge asking him to improve the migrants' situation as they came under new laws which they could not have anticipated. The letter seems to have had some effect. The numbers of Russian emigrants decreased from 980 to 250 at the Camp within 14 months.

The number of emigrants passing through Southampton rose rapidly from 1919 to about 8,000 in 1924 and approximately 20,000 in 1928.

Eventually the situation eased as some got to South America, South Africa and Palestine. A few got into the USA.

The last person left was a deaf and blind child who was cared for by the Jewish authorities in Britain.

The Atlantic Park transit camp closed during the first week of October 1931. On March 6, 1936, the camp site would be where the first Spitfire had its initial test flight. The railway halt, near the present Southampton International Airport station, was demolished in the late 1950’s.

Daily Echo: SeeSouthampton logo. Image: Echo

Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .