The Secret WW2 Learning Network recently held one its now regular events in the Royal Patriotic Building - formerly the Royal Victoria Patriotic School (RVPS) - in Wandsworth, south-west London.
A presentation and lunch was kindly hosted by Mark Justin and his Le Gothique restaurant, which is a tenant in the building, with a capacity audience of 22 attending.
Paul McCue outlined the building's history and its role as MI5's London Reception Centre (LRC) during WW2. Anyone arriving from enemy-occupied countries had to be cleared at the LRC and it provided fertile recruiting ground for SOE, MI 9, MI 19, SIS etc.
A women's section was housed in another commandeered school in nearby Balham. The LRC was also important in uncovering enemy agents sent to Britain and posing as refugees. Several were uncovered at the LRC and Paul went on to cover the role of HM Prison Wandsworth in incarcerating and executing agents.
Paul also detailed the wartime service of Captain Paul Sarrette of French Section, SOE who was cleared at the LRC in May 1943.
After a fine lunch, Gilly Halcrow, daughter of a wartime SOE officer, generously gave her time to deliver a fascinating presentation on The Shetland Bus.
The majority of arrivals at the LRC were not French, as might have been expected, but were courageous Norwegians, determined to hit back at the Nazis from the earliest days of their country's occupation.
Gilly's presentation told of how many of the Norwegians reached Britain by small boat to Shetland before being processed through the LRC. We are extremely grateful to Gilly for her support.