The Marks & Spencer store in central Bath is marking the RAF’s centenary year by recalling remarkable WWII stories of incredible community spirit in the city.
The company is also inviting local RAF Cadets into the store as part of a £500,000 nationwide fundraising drive.
Bath was hit hard by bombing throughout World War II and the local M&S became a central pillar for the community during this time, providing shelter to the people of Bath during night time air raids and fuelling the city through rations of food and clothing.
One notable raid in April 1942 left the local school and church alight, with the M&S store escaping only with shattered windows.
Four M&S staff were made homeless, and assistant, Francis Ford, lost her life. Mr R Bryant, store manager of M&S Bath at the time remembered the impact on the city and the community spirit and resilience that prevailed: “From my home looking down on the city, it appeared as if the store was alight.”
To celebrate its long, shared history with the RAF, M&S is pledging £500,000 worth of fundraising in support of the RAF100 Appeal.
Local RAF Air Cadets will offer their bag-packing services to customers at M&S Bath and encourage customers to donate their spare change in a bid to help reach the fundraising target. RAF cadets will also be selling limited edition RAF100 pins in aid of the charity.
The funds raised by the RAF Cadets in store will go towards inspiring the next generation of engineers, scientists and technology specialists through scholarships, training and university bursaries for air cadets and school pupils from underprivileged backgrounds.
The fundraising will also support the Royal Air Force’s four major charities – RAFA, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF Charitable Trust and the RAF Museum.
M&S’s connection with the RAF dates back to 1938 when Simon Marks, Chairman, and son of the founder was instrumental in setting up what became the RAF Air Cadets.
By the end of WWII, almost 100,000 cadets had joined the RAF – a pipeline of talent made possible by M&S and the RAF.
During the Second World War, more than 320 M&S employees served in the RAF, 18 of whom received awards.
As part of M&S’s partnership with the RAF to celebrate the Centenary Year M&S has also designed a limited edition men’s leather flying jacket, ‘The Marksman’, has gone on sale, with all profits going to the RAF100 Appeal.
The jacket is named in recognition of the M&S colleagues who raised £5,000 in 1941 to fund a new spitfire for the RAF war effort which they named ‘The Marksman’.
Angela Etteridge, Store Manager at M&S Bath, said: “Hearing the stories of how our predecessors coped during the war is so inspiring.
“It really underlines how M&S has always been at the heart of the community here in Bath. We are proud to be partnering with the RAF to celebrate its Centenary Year and look forward to welcoming our local branch of the RAF cadets into store to raise funds for a truly worthwhile cause.”