BRF's War stories - Part two
Welcome to part two of our BRF War stories, as told by our founder Leslie Mannering and General Secretary Margery Sykes.
The bombs fell
BRF moved back to its offices in London’s Victoria Street in April 1940, shortly before enemy bombing began ‘with a vengeance’, As Margery Sykes recalls:
‘One of the first catastrophes from which we suffered was when our main printers (and packers), Messrs. G.F. Skinner & Co., had a direct hit on their works. Miss Wright, the first B.R.F. group secretary at St Matthew’s, Brixton, wrote of that time:
“On my way to business one morning during the dreadful air-raids over London, I had to pass through Camberwell, and as I reached the firm who had the printing of the Fellowship leaflets I found them scattered all over the road and pavements, mixed up with the belongings of the poor unfortunate people who had suffered to shockingly the previous night. The Notes had obviously been packed up ready for delivery. It was a distressing sight.”
It certainly was a serious matter, and 244,000 Notes were destroyed in that one night to the value of £835.
Keep carrying on…
The sudden loss of so many Notes in the bombing of the printers, just when they were due for dispatch was a major crisis but BRF staff rose to the occasion magnificently, as Margery Sykes recalls:
‘ A printer had to be found to deal with an emergency re-print, and arrangements made for the packing of the parcels which numbered thousands.
Headquarters staff had to work at tremendous pressure to deal all over again with the addressing of labels and a considerable amount of packing, but in spite of all this the Notes were re-printed and send out just in time for the scheduled date, so that none of our readers suffered any inconvenience.’
This ‘can do’ commitment of BRF staff was demonstrated time after time through the darkest days of the war.
‘A cellar at No. 171 Victoria Street was put at our disposal as an air-raid shelter, and often during the Battle of Britain a daylight raid would have started by the time the office was due to open. Those who reached it first would wait anxiously for those who had been delayed in train or bus, and some of the juniors would arrive for work weary and sleepy-eyed after being up all night in a shelter. So we put a camp-bed in my office where, during one of the lulls, they could take it in turns to snatch an hour’s sleep in order to carry on their work more efficiently. We were most fortunate in that there were no casualties among the staff, and although bombs were dropped on both sides of the office building, it only suffered from that unpredictable element – blast.’
Go to part three of the story...