Not touched upon yet on this blog is the Brunswick Boy’s Club in Bootle, now the Brunswick Youth and Community Centre. After the Allied bombing of the camp in August 1944 life became hard, the shower and kitchen blocks were badly damaged, drainage and sewage systems were partly destroyed, windows broken and power disrupted. From what I know from my father’s diary and other available information, life there until then had been reasonably bearable, but the winter of ’44-45 was cold and the war was moving into its final stages with German resources becoming scarce, with the obvious effect upon Allied POWs.
Many of the POWs in Oflag-79, like my father, were officers who had known a degree of privilege and comfort before the war, and for most, after 2-3 and more years of imprisonment without an end in sight, these were the worst days. There was among some a realisation of what it was actually like to live without comfort and resources. A meeting was held in the camp, discussions were had, hands were raised and a decision was made that when, and if, they got home, a promise was made to start a series of boy’s clubs back in Britain. Money was raised in the camp via promisory notes, raffles, handshakes and through a Trust Deed drawn up in camp and over £13,000 pounds was raised in advance of liberation in April 1945. “At least one good thing shall come out of this miserable rotting period….. we will found a Boy’s Club for some of the many whose difficulties we now understand”.
Article on the founding of the Brunswick Boy’s Clubs. (Source unknown).
On return to Britain a committee was set up, and a national appeal started for more and better Boy’s Clubs, 10% of which was to go to the Brunswick organisation. Within a year, over £250,000 was raised.
As far as I know, three Brunswick Boy’s Clubs were opened; in Liverpool, Glasgow and Fulham. All of them are still in existence. The Liverpool club, known as The Brunny, was founded and steered by my father, Philip Radcliffe-Evans and two fellow prisoners of Oflag-79, Harry Mounsey and Mike Marshall. When I was young I remember my father attending meetings and dealing with paperwork and being involved very much in the organisation, and as his business grew I know he stepped back, probably in the early 1960s. Mike Marshall and particularly Harry Mounsey continued their involvement until much later.
Through working on The Brunswick Prison Camp Map Printers book I have reconnected with the now named Brunswick Youth & Community Centre in Bootle, Liverpool and was honoured and delighted to be asked to attend their 70th anniversary celebration day on 21st April 2017 and to say a few words. It has been through changes in both location and management since 1947, and now includes the Jamie Carragher Football Academy, is affiliated with a Tamil school, has links with the armed services and is closely integrated with everyone both young and old in the area; I know my father would have been greatly touched that it has gone from strength to strength and continues to be such a force for good in the community, and that it still carries the name “Brunswick” and that the reasons for its foundation are still so well remembered.