Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Brunny's 70th birthday a story that began in the POW camp Oflag 79

A pleasure to meet Bob King a POW at Oflag 79

A pleasure to meet Bob King a POW at Oflag 79
The first American, together with a French worker named Pierre, arrive to liberate Oflag 79 on 14th April 2015.  From the 1948 book ‘For you the war is over’ by Gordon Horne

I was in Bootle last week to open the 70th birthday celebrations for the 'Brunny' that is Brunswick Youth and Community Centre. The club has the most compelling history. It goes back to a POW camp in Brunswick in WW2. The men were kicking their heals and beginning to understand what it must be like to be young, unemployed and without a clear pathway through life. It was in that desolate environment that the idea to set up a network of Boys' Clubs was hatched.

I met one of the POWs from the camp Bob King. Bob had travelled up from Shropshire to join the party. He told us about life in the camp and the lead up to liberation. The illustration at the top of this posting us taken from a book about life on OLAF 79. Among the remarkable stories that Bob told was that he a several of the other POWs qualified as solicitors whilst they were in the camp.

There are three Brunswick Clubs-one in each of Glasgow, London and Bootle. Three POW's came come to set up the club on Merseyside it began life in the City but moved up to Bootle The Bootle branch of the Brunswick Boys Club was established in 1947 by three Oflag 79 POWs: Michael Marshall, Philip Evans, and Harry Mounsey, and opened its doors in 1948. I met the sons of the tree founders who have maintained a connection with the project. The son of Philip Evans told us about his father's amazing map making achievements. A printer before the war it dawned on him that the tiles that were used to serve their food on could be turned into printing plates. He proceeded to produce detailed escape maps and the Brunny had a exhibition of his work. I was captivated by this story and imagined some sketch map to help escaping POWs find their way home. I was not prepared for the multi coloured detailed map that were turned out by the hundred.  You can find out more details here

If you follow this link you will find a video made by John Mills promoting the Brunswick Clubs and now held by the British Film Institute

Today the club has expanded to serve the whole community. The Jamie Carragher's sports initiative is based in the centre. I met Brownies, army cadets, Sefton Veterans, and folks who ran the toddlers groups.
The Brownies St James's Brownies sang war times songs for us accompanied by a young women who turned up to entertain the punters at the Bootle Beer Festival on Saturday where she played an altogether different style of music ......

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