17TH MAY 1935 – 17TH APRIL 2017
As with most children born in the mid 1930s, war was the dominant influence of Brian’s early childhood. An unhappy evacuation to Yorkshire which he attempted to end, aged 5, by walking home along the railway line; repatriation to North London to his large working class family; air raids seemingly every night; to school for breakfast and then down to the shelter to catch up on sleep; – this was the normal rhythm of life. Nor was it dull. When the air raid sirens sounded at night, Brian would wander up to Hampstead Heath and, lying on his back, gaze up at the criss-crossing searchlights as the ack- ack gunners tried to bring down the incoming enemy planes. He would fill his pockets with shrapnel and sell it down the scrap yard; there is always a way to make money out of war. There were often fresh gaps in the close-packed houses, with only a bare fireplace in the wall to remind one that this was once someone’s home. Occasionally there were more gruesome remnants in the rubble, tangible reminders of the people who had lived there. Names disappeared from the school register and faces were forgotten. Diving behind the nearest wall when machine gunners from enemy fighter planes strafed kids on the way home from school was the nearest thing to organised sport. Amongst all this, Brian did all the usual things that small boys do, or should not do but with a few added extras, such as picking up a butterfly bomb and proudly producing it at a school lecture on the dangers of anti-personnel devices.
At what point in his life he actually became a pacifist, Brian is not sure. By the time he came to do his National Service after the war, however, he decided that there was no way he was going to learn how to kill. While never claiming at this stage to be a conscientious objector, he made himself so indispensable at organising sporting and social events for his fellow squaddies that his slightly dubious claims to be unfit for active military duties were never seriously challenged. After a short course at Liverpool University he became a professional Youth Leader working mainly with voluntary youth and community projects in London’s East End. He then became a local government Youth Officer, working successively in Potters Bar, Barnet and Brent. After a stint as Adviser to the Jersey Youth Movement in the 1970s, he finished his career as Chief Youth Officer to the London Borough of Enfield.
Throughout his career his driving motivation was to give young people a better chance, a better start, in life. He was adamantly opposed to all forms of violence, in the home, on the street, on the playing field, towards animals, between communities, by governments and nations. The more committed a Christian he became, the more convinced he was that violence was not God’s way of solving problems so it should not be ours. He was not interested in fine philosophical arguments or convoluted debates about “just war”. His pacifism was born of experience and strengthened by faith. This was not always an easy position to hold in the Church of England and he was very glad when we finally unearthed the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship online. We became members and served on the governing body until ill-health prevented him from attending meetings.