‘Mr Squirrell’s Boys’ - book launched to uncover wartime stories from PwC
The History and English students were granted exclusive access to PwC’s London-based archives and compiled a unique collection of letters sent and received by employees from Cooper Brothers & Co, a predecessor of PwC.
This has now been made into a book to mark the centenary of the First World War, Mr Squirrell’s Boys, which features nine men from Cooper Brothers & Co who went to fight in World War One and sadly never returned. The nine included a married father who died of sickness on Valentine’s Day 1917 and a young clerk who joined the firm in 1912 (Andrew Pearson Davidson), remembered by a colleague as a ‘jolly companion’, who was killed on the Somme and was thought to be one of 300 Gordon Highlanders who were lost in Guillemont and Ginchy – his body was never recovered.
Dr Henry Irving, senior lecturer in history at Leeds Beckett, said: “The letters Cooper Brothers & Co received from staff who were away in the war were combined into a monthly newsletter named ‘Budget’ by the senior clerk, Samuel Squirrell. These letters painted a detailed picture of the individuals involved and it was fascinating to see how they created a feeling of community among the Cooper Brothers’ staff.”
Ben Sharratt, PwC Archivist added: “This project represents a unique addition to the ways in which PwC collaborates with universities.
"Our archive contains several documents relating to staff involvement in the war, but now, thanks to the endeavor of students at Leeds Beckett University, we have been able to add some real depth to biographies of staff who found themselves in uniform and pitched into the horrors of war.
“In his final ‘Budget’ editorial, Mr Squirrell expressed his wish that long after the war had ended, the collection of letters would be cherished as a record of the part Cooper Brothers’ staff played in the struggle for freedom. One hundred years on, we have not just cherished the letters but have created a lovely tribute too in the form of Mr Squirrell’s Boys."
Professor Andrew Cooper, Dean of the School of Culture Studies & Humanities, said: “Letters, which are such a poignant reminder of why we are commemorating the centenary of World War One, have given our students a unique opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in preparation for their future careers. We’re very grateful to PwC for granting exclusive access to their archive for a project that exemplifies the mutual benefits of student-centred collaborations.”
The collaboration also included a final year dissertation by BA (Hons) History graduate Christian Perry, who focused on the Cooper Brothers & Co newsletter as the basis for his final year study. In addition, students on English with Creative Writing have been inspired to write poetry from the wartime letters.
Will Richardson, PwC Leeds Office Senior Partner concluded: “Being able to work with Leeds Beckett University on such a worthwhile project has created a poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by our former PwC colleagues on the centenary of World War One”.