The British War Relief Society was an umbrella organisation that provided humanitarian aid to Great Britain from subscribers in the United States. Their work focussed on providing non military items such as food, clothing and medical supplies that were to be used on our home front. The BWRS also almost entirely funded the AAGB up until the 31st December 1945 when financial responsibility for the organisation was taken on by The Exchequer due to the BWRS pulling out (the politics behind that move will be explained further one day in a very big post as it’s fairly complicated!!). Between July 1st 1940 and June 30th 1944 the BWRS donated £468,737 15s 2d to the AAGB. That’s about £26 million in today’s money! To raise founds for the AAGB and all the other causes they funded they relied on donations, special events and merchandise. One such example of this is this beautiful Cartier badge, we can’t find many details about this particular badge but are sure it was one of their more premium badges!
Around a year ago now I was contacted by someone who was looking into the story behind a lady who served in the AAGB. Sadly I couldn’t provide any service records however I was sent these two lovely photos. One Shows Bette in her MTC uniform with AAGB arm badge clearly on display, the other shows her sitting on the bonnet of a “Ford Clara” Ambulance – GGP421 Amb.75, while I’m not sure exactly where she served I now believe it to be either Swansea or Cardiff as the Ambulance she is sitting on was donated to a north wales hospital after the war.
By the end of the war, the AAGB were headquartered at 44 Lower Belgrave Street, SW1 however for most of it, their headquarters was 9 Grosvenor Gardens, SW1. We’d long wondered what the links to these buildings were but now we’ve found one, as to why they were headquartered at 9 Grosvenor Gardens.
In 1907 a Scottish entrepreneur, unable to get financial backing in the UK took the idea for a portable fire extinguisher to the US and, in 1909 set up the Pyrene Company of Delaware. In 1914 an American businessman Mr Wallace B Phillips, set up a British offshoot based in Great Queen Street, London. In 1918 the office of Pyrene, an ever expanding company moved and they set up in 9 Grosvenor Gardens, London. While their manufacturing was based elsewhere it seems for a long period they had their main office there.
I often credit Mr Gilbert H Carr to setting up the AAGB but there was another key player in its formation, someone who was also a member of The American Society in London – Mr Wallace B Phillips. Mr Phillips played a key part in setting up the AAGB and running it in the early years so it makes logical sense that they used his offices.
They moved to 44 Lower Belgrave Street in March 1945, the reason for that still remains a mystery for now however it was fascinating to find this link to their first headquarters.
Bellow are some photos of a Pyrene Extinguisher, the building in question, a Pyrene advert and an AAGB ID card with the address on!
Once again that’s another year gone and what a year it’s been, unfortunately around this time a year ago we lost a great friend, Ray, but his enthusiasm and belief in what we were doing has lived on. We’ve gained quite a few more original items and photographs and learned so much more about the AAGB. 2020 is set to be a big year of change for us, there are lots of things in the pipeline which include; possible magazine articles, an all new and improved website, some money for advertising to keep promoting the history of the AAGB and we’re putting the finishing touches to a package we can use at talks to history groups and schools etc. I hope you will join us on this journey, it seems crazy where this project has come from the start in 2016. I’d like to thank all of you who have helped us so far and hope you’ll stick with us into the future. Just a reminder of the items we have in our shop, or the ability to donate via PayPal.me/aagb1945 what we do and are going to do isn’t free however that doesn’t mean we’ll stop, we’ll always carry on but if you want to support us that would be great! Also if you have anything at all related to the AAGB, MTC or FANY that you’d like to re home or share then please drop us a message to discuss. Have a great Christmas and I look forward to 2020.
As we move into December I thought I’d post about this, this is an original AAGB Christmas card. Unfortunately we don’t have many details about it however think it’s a lovely albeit simple card!
This is an extra post away from the normal fortnightly ones! A week ago a post that we has scheduled speculated more on the links between the AAGB and the Mechanised Transport Corps. I always knew some drivers were provided by the MTC but recently uncovered documents show that actually, over 50% of the ‘AAGB’ drivers were in fact of the MTC. More will be revealed over the coming months but for now I’ll leave you with some statistics from January 1945; The MTC provided 203 of the 382 drivers, ran 163 of the 302 vehicles, ran 14 of the 29 stations and drove 159,944 miles. They drove AAGB vehicles, were under AAGB control but wore MTC uniforms with the addition of an AAGB cloth badge. I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.
Here is a photo from the collection of Miss M B Wilford which may well be one of her. This photo is interesting as it proves the links between the AAGB and Mechanised Transport Corps. In this photo the member is wearing MTC uniform, MTC badges all round, the cap has blue piping around the edges and she will be wearing an “M.T.C.” tab on her shoulders. What you can’t see in the scan but can make out in the original image is that she is wearing an AAGB arm badge halfway down her left arm. This proves more the interconnectedness of the two organisations.
We’ve been lucky enough to track down more items from the collection of Miss M B Wilford. In this lot we got some photographs (two of which we don’t have copies of) a copy of the MTC rules and regulations 1943, also is Miss Wilford’s sam browne belt. We’ve also got from her our first bit of AAGB uniform, more to follow on that!
While in Leeds we snapped some photos of St John’s Church. This is where Leeds driver Ruth Davies got married in 1943, most of the members of Leeds who were able to were there and in fact the church is only a 5 min walk from where their station was. Ruth married Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Jack Sinton R.N.V.R on the 25th September 1943.
We’ve posted about AAGB playing cards before, they appear to have been in red and blue. We were really pleased to receive this near mint unopened package of blue ones. They’re in great condition, still in their original tax wrapper! We believe these cards will have been sold to raise funds for the AAGB.