The lost boys of London
Powering on into the future, the gift of motion branded through the ages.
Those brave names recorded and illuminated, ringing down among the bells of the city fair.
Creating the Centena
I first came across Charles Wakefield while doing research at my company in the BP archive. Charles was the founder of Castrol Oil, a brand BP had acquired in 2002 when it took over Burmah Castrol. A man of great foresight, Charles introduced Castrol motor oil in 1909 and his oil Castrol R was instrumental in the First World War allowing Allied planes to fly in colder conditions and at higher altitudes than German planes.
But what first caught my eye was his middle name – Cheers. This was his given name and not a nickname. This intrigued me and spurred me on to find out more about the man. And there was much more.
Cheers, as I began to call him, was the Lord Mayor of London from 1915-1916. He came into office, driven by a strong Puritan streak, with a belief that it was as least as important that Great Britain should be worth saving as that it should be saved on some foreign battlefield. As the new Lord Mayor, he was appalled by the simplistic, nationalistic calls to arms and instead became chief recruiting officer for the young men of London appealing to higher things such as honour, chivalry and righteousness. His was a simple but earnest address based on moral idealism.
He opened up his Mansion House as a recruiting station, where he was personally present to provide words of support and to the young men who flocked there to enlist in response to his many rousing speeches.
His influence also spread far further than the confines of the capital. Cheers was also a great believer in the power of the Empire as a force for good. While in office he set about to project London as a spiritual home for the British Empire. This extended to the hospitality he showed to over a thousand wounded soldiers from the Empire when he hosted an event at the Mansion House for them.
He also regularly entertained civilians at the Mansion House focusing on those less fortunate, including many orphaned children who he referred to as the ‘Tiny Tim’s of humanity’.
His work for the people of London continued when he was out of office, getting involved with a huge number of City institutions and charities. He was a co-founder of the Wakefield Trust, along with his friend the Reverend “Tubby” Clayton, better known as the founder of the Toc H charity.
26 is a group of writers whose purpose is to inspire a greater love of words in business and in life.