Brian Sherriff, the eldest of two sons, was born in Bristol to Jack and Joan Sherriff. Her mother recorded the date as May 24, 1929 in a baby book, but her birth certificate gave the year 1928.
His father was director of Langridge Ltd, a corset factory established in the early 19th century, originally to manufacture crinolines and stockings, which had been bought by Brian’s grandfather, Edgar Sherriff, in the 1890s A 1929 trade advertisement described the company as “Manufacturers of Modern and Progressive Designs of Women’s Corsets, Corsets, Brassieres, Suspenders, Girdles, etc. Trademark ‘Unity’. Specialists in lines fitted with the Patent ‘Klippitt’ Busk.”
During the Second World War it made parachutes and sheaths for the WRNS and WAAF, and in 1946 Jack opened a new factory in Camborne, Cornwall, to manufacture bras.
Brian grew up in the Clifton area of Bristol and as a child lived through the early nights of the Bristol Blitz, when he recalled hearing the frightened roars of lions at Bristol Zoo.
In September 1940 he entered Clifton College Prep School, but after being hit in an air raid in November the school was evacuated to Bude in Cornwall. Places were however limited and Brian was not selected.
In January 1941 the family moved to the relative safety of Saltford, Somerset, within commuting distance of the factory, and Brian was sent as a boarder to Monkton Combe School, where he preferred to paddle his canoe on the Avon to his studies.