Paul Hollywood - Who Do You Think You Are?

A beloved grandfather that served in the Second World War...


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Celebrity baker and chef Paul John Hollywood, best known for being a judge on BBC One's The Great British Bake Off since 2010, is the first celebrity to appear in the 2015 UK series of Who Do You Think You Are?.

Born in 1966 in Wallasey, the son of bakery proprietor, John F. Hollywood and Gillian M. Harman, we can find records for his birth within TheGenealogist by entering his details into the Master Search and selecting the Births and Baptisms.

Paul's birth record at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Paul's parent's marriage took place in Wallasey and we have also been able to find them in the marriage records on TheGenealogist by clicking on the Parent's Potential Marriage link from the transcript of Paul's birth record.

John Hollywood & Gillian Harman's marriage record at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Our well known TV baker is said to have got the taste for baking bread from his father, but he would not pursue this career until after he had tried to follow his mum's side of the family and gone to art college to do a preliminary art and design course. When Paul was 10 his father and mother divorced and his dad left Wallasey, moving to Yorkshire where he established a bakery shop chain called Bread Winner. This grew to eventually have branches from Aberdeen to Lincolnshire and it was when his dad's firm bought a bakery in Walton, on the other side of the water from Wallasey, that the 18 year old Paul got a call and was asked to come and join his father in the business. Paul is on record as saying he found being the boss's son extremely difficult. By the time he was 20, however, he'd been made head baker for his father's group of shops in his area.

A few years later and by now Paul had left the family chain to become head baker at the upmarket Grosvenor hotel in Chester. His career took him on to the Dorchester in London before returning to the Chester hotel, only to be poached by a hotel group setting up in Cyprus. It was on that island that he started doing a bit of television work, met his wife and on his return to England the on screen work kept on coming in.

When his parents divorced Paul became close to his maternal grandparents. Paul knew that his beloved grandfather had served during the Second World War in North Africa. He was also aware that his grandfather had spent some time in Italy, including the Anzio landings, but he didn't know much more.

It was in 1940 that Paul's grandfather, Norman Harman (1913 - 2003), married Amy Davies in Wallasey, as we have found in the marriage records on TheGenealogist.

Norman Harman & Amy Davies' marriage record at TheGenealogist.co.uk

Norman Harman served with the 90th LAA Royal Artillery Regiment from 1940 to 1945 with some of the time being spent in Tunisia and Italy. When Norman was conscripted he had to leave his wife, who was pregnant with Paul's mother, and report for army service, not actually getting to meet his daughter until she was three years old.

Paul's journey in the Who Do You Think You Are? programme takes him first to North Africa where his grandfather was sent as soon as he had completed his training. At Medjez el Bab in Tunisia, Norman's Light Anti-Aircraft division were protecting the infantry from enemy air attacks at the time of the major Allied offensive to take Tunis from the German forces. With the enemy throwing bombs and missiles at them it was hard on these men.

From there Paul traveled to Italy, where he learnt about how his grandfather was part of the landing force that became trapped on the beaches at Anzio for four months, surrounded by Germans and all the while under constant aerial bombardment. Paul gets to see the landing area where his grandfather and the other men would have felt like sitting ducks, with death and devastation all around them. Norman and his comrades finally managed to land and their gun was then transported five miles inland. Unfortunately for them the regiment was soon surrounded by the enemy in a dangerously exposed area. Huge numbers of men had no choice but to dig themselves into 7ft long fox holes and spend months trapped, coming under repeated German shell attacks.

In May 1944 and thanks to Norman's regiment's extraordinary efforts, the stalemate at Anzio was broken. The next month the Allied armies went on to liberate Rome, but not without the loss of 14,000 lives. Paul's grandfather brought back from this conflict a visible memento of his terrifying time. He had developed a facial tic that stayed with him until he died.

We know from records on TheGenealogist, that Norman Harman was born the son of James J.S. Harman and Margaret Christina Mckenzie.

Norman Harman (Photograph: BBC)

Norman Harman on the beach at the Anzio 50th commemoration, 1994 (Photograph: BBC and ©Jill Hollywood)

Norman Harman's birth record at TheGenealogist

Paul's grandfather, Norman was the son of James John S. Harman who was born in 1880 and was an Upholster by trade. He married Margaret Christina McKenzie in 1903 whose family line can be followed up to the Highlands of Scotland.

Paul's great-grandfather, James J. H. Harman, was born in Norwich in 1849 and moved from there to Birkenhead, where we can find that he was employed as a Gold Beater in the 1881 census.

James J. H. Harman in the 1881 Census at TheGenealogist

Looking back a generation we can find him as the son of James Samuel Harman from Norfolk, who was a Newspaper Reporter in the 1861 Liverpool census and in the 1851 census of Kings Lynn, Norfolk, he can be found as a Shorthand writer and Reporter to the Norwich Mercury.

James Samuel Harman in the 1851 Census at TheGenealogist

Leaving the Harman's aside, and following the Scottish line we find Margaret McKenzie, Norman's mother and Paul's great-grandmother, was the daughter of Alexander McKenzie, a Wood Turner who had come down to Liverpool from his native Glasgow.

Alexander McKenzie in the 1851 Census at TheGenealogist

Alexander was born in 1857 and then married Rebecca Elliot, who had been born in Armagh, Ireland in 1856. They got married in the district of West Derby in Lancashire in 1878 as can be seen from the marriage records on TheGenealogist.

Alexander McKenzie & Rebecca Elliott's marriage record at TheGenealogist

Paul's great, great, great, great grandfather Donald McKenzie, was a Highland postman with quite extraordinary stamina. Not being able to afford a horse with which to cover his rounds delivering the mail for 30,000 people, Donald simply ran the 120 miles with the mail every week.

Paul Hollywood’s story began in the Wirral, where we discovered that his baking skills seem to have been inherited from his dad. Paul’s maternal grandfather, Norman also had a big influence on his life and we follow in his footsteps, finding Norman’s marriage in 1940, after which Norman was sent abroad to fight, missing the birth of Paul’s mum and not returning for three years. We have exclusively found that Norman’s line was descended from a Gold Beater and Newspaper reporter from Norfolk, while the TV programme followed Paul’s great-grandmother’s line back to Scotland and a very fit postal runner who ran with the post from one side of Scotland to the other.

Paul’s story revealed some very tenacious ancestors in his family tree, from his grandfather whose exemplary conduct was noted in his WWII service record to his super fit 4 times great-grandfather who ran with the post in his bag.

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