The Brunswick Centre (Glasgow) was founded in 1951 by Prisoner of War captives with the sole purpose of providing young people in London, Liverpool & Glasgow with opportunity and positive direction in their lives post WW2.
Since then and with over 70 years’ service delivery in Balornock & Barmulloch, the Brunswick Youth Centre (Glasgow) has evolved and it has been at the heart of Balornock and Barmulloch providing the local community & young people with activities & services that have shaped and produced positive outcomes over many generations.
Over the years our mission has adapted away from our military past whilst still remembering our heritage and beginnings.
The Brunswick Centre offers a wide and varied range of activities for community purpose that aims to challenge issues affecting health, wellbeing and tackling the issues and barriers presented to modern communities.
Where did our name come from?
In December 1943 the Germans established “Offizierslager 79”, which translates to Officers Camp 79 and was also known as Oflag 79. It was a prisoner of war (“POW”) camp in the town of Braunschweig, known to the English-speaking allies as “Brunswick”. By July 1944 the camp imprisoned 2,200- 2,500 British and allied officers and non-commissioned soldiers.
Life in Oflag 79
Arthur Royall, a Prisoner of War (“POW”) who arrived at Oflag 79 in autumn 1944, describes it as “austere, and lacking in creature comforts but it was not unbearably uncomfortable”. Initially, to him at least, it seems that morale was quite good. The camp was a ‘hive of activity” with numerous societies and clubs offering education, entertainment, and spiritual guidance. The men received Red Cross parcels, which contained essential items like food, medical supplies, and soap. Combined with their German rations, they were not too hungry.
Downfall and misery
Things quickly got worse for the POWs in the run up to Christmas 1944. The allies stepped up the air raids (which stopped Red Cross parcel deliveries from getting through) and the Germans cut their rations, so that they were eating much less than the Red Cross minimum allowance.
By now the men were forced to live in desperate conditions. Food was short, clothing was tattered, there was sparse heating, and buildings were falling into disrepair. Without proper rooves and windows on their prison buildings the soldiers had no way to protect themselves from the harsh winter.
The POWs were bored, miserable, cold, and hungry. With no way to improve their situation, they had no alternative but to wait and see who won the war and what would happen to them. Many felt powerless and depressed.
It is no wonder that the camp became a slum and morale was at rock bottom.
But where most saw misery, two POWs saw opportunity.
Foundation of the Brunswick Boys Club
In February 1945, one morning at roll-call, Lieutenant Colonel James Dunhill, looked around and saw what living in boring, depressing conditions had done to morale.
He realised that this was the same for young people at home. Boys without purpose, with too much time on their hands, were wasting their youth. They had nowhere to go, and nothing to do to channel their energies.
Colonel Dunhill’s solution to both problems was to propose to his fellow POWs that they should raise money to establish a boys club. This would help hundreds of boys at home, and raise morale in the camp by giving the men a sense of purpose.
Over the next month £13,000 in donations, and more than £700 in annual subscription were raised from the community and the club was formed under the name the Brunswick Boys Club, named after the camp.
Brunswick comes to Britian
On 12 April 1945 General Simpson’s American Ninth Army freed the men.
The Trustees wasted no time after the war. They contacted the National Association of Boys Clubs. They had the money but needed help to found the club. The NABC, impressed by the story, set up a high-profile “Brunswick Appeal” which was launched by the Prime Minister, Clement Atlee, Field Marshal Montgomery and film star John Mills, who made a publicity film in which he appealed for money to fund 4,000 boys clubs. Watch below
With the help of the NABC and personal support from the Prime Minister, Brunswick Boys Clubs were founded in London, Glasgow, and Liverpool. Seventy years on all three clubs are still going strong and enjoy close ties.