10 July, 2018

SHARING HISTORY: M&S AND THE RAF

When it comes to answering our country’s call, M&S and our dedicated colleagues have always stepped up to the plate. In the Second World War, we created a magazine for colleagues called ‘The Forces Bulletin’. We encouraged employees to train as Air Raid Wardens and Fire Watchers. M&S Café Bars opened up, providing a break from rationing. Our experts helped set the standard for Utility Clothing. And lest we forget, former colleagues who laid down their lives in various conflicts.

But our attention turns to 1938, a year before WW2 broke out. That’s when Simon Marks, M&S Chairman and son of our founder, helped form the RAF Cadets. Only £7,000 had been pledged towards a target of £25,000 to create the Cadets and Simon personally made up the balance. Over 300 M&S employees served in the RAF during the conflict and Simon retained a lifelong interest in the Air Cadets. It was the beginning of historic ties between the RAF and M&S.

Our two organisations have so much in common, such as a flair for innovation and a dogged determination to modernise and stay relevant through generations. And we have much to celebrate together. So we’re proud to announce a new partnership with the RAF to mark its 100 years of service.

M&S and our colleagues are throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into the celebration. Steve Rowe, CEO of M&S, and Air Vice-Marshal Mike Wigston CBE recently opened an RAF exhibition at the M&S Archive in Leeds to showcase our joint histories. We’ve pledged to raise £500,000 in M&S stores up and down the country for the RAF100 Appeal. These funds will inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and technology specialists by providing scholarships, training and university bursaries for air cadets and school pupils from underprivileged backgrounds. We have also designed a limited-edition men’s leather flying jacket which are on sale online and in selected M&S stores. The jacket named ‘The Marksman’ is a nod to the M&S colleagues who raised £5,000 in 1941 to fund a new Spitfire for the RAF war effort, named ‘The Marksman’.

Steve Rowe said: “Our connection with the RAF runs deeper than our shared history; the RAF’s values of integrity and service mirror our own. The RAF’s spirit of relentless innovation, that has led it to flourish 100 year after its inception, reflects our own transformation from our entrepreneurial roots as a Leeds market stall to becoming a British retail institution.’’

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, RAF, responded: “RAF100 is a moment for the whole nation, so the support of M&S, another national institution, for the RAF100 Appeal is a tremendous demonstration of our shared values and intent.”

The RAF: we salute you!

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